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April 30, 2010

Yeah, But They Are All Highway Miles

So when does it become ok, a badge of honor if you will to start having your cars rack up the miles.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really one of these people who worry about how many miles I drive, and NOT driving because I don’t want to put miles on my vehicle.  This is good as I put 30,000 – 35,000 miles a year on a vehicle.  I think cars are made to be driven, and when something breaks, you fix it (or let it go until it gets worse).  That said, when a vehicle is new, it is nice to try to keep it new for as long as you can.

I’ve bought a brand new vehicle exactly once in my life, a 1997 Dodge Ram 1500.  Black Sport 4x4 with a 318, and dual exhausts behind a flow master muffler (thanks to Mike Owczarek).    Brand new meaning you were the one who drove it off the dealer lot.  I remember how quickly I hit 30,000 miles, and how upset I was that it happened so fast.

I sold that truck when the opportunity came up to purchase my father’s truck, a 1995 Dodge Ram 3500 dually 4x4 Cummins Diesel.  If you google bad ass Dodge Ram 3500 in Michigan, his truck comes up in the images section, so I really had no choice.  Keep in mind for the sake of this blog post that this truck had almost 350,000 miles on it when I sold it.

Since then I’ve purchased 3 other vehicles (all of them with my wife).  A 2005 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 Cummins Diesel (see a pattern developing here), a 2002 Chrysler Sebring (really purchased by my in-laws), and a 1966 VW Bug. 

Currently the 2500 Cummins has 105,000 miles on it, the Sebring has 160,000 miles on it, and the Bug is unknown, and really not important…I’m not even sure why I’m bringing it up, maybe because old cars are cool regardless of make and model.  We own a car that is almost 45 years old, still in solid working condition, ready for the road at any moment (as soon as I get the carb fixed).  So I now own two vehicles, making payments on one of them, with more than 100,000 miles on them.

Because I’m a car geek, and a bit of a dork, when the Sebring hit 150,000 miles, I pulled over on Grand River in Howell, near Burkhart Road (yes I remember where, because again I’m a dork) and took a picture of said event.  I’m proud of it, and can’t wait to hit 200,000 and beyond.

So when does this happen?  When did I go from being pissed about 30,000 miles to being elated about 150,000?

I think 150,000 is my personal magic number.  100,000 used to be the number, but I think with the way cars are built now  - a - days, that is too low, heck, you don’t even have to change spark plugs until 100,000 miles now  (if your vehicle has spark plugs, keep in mind that 1/3rd of my vehicles do not).  100,000 miles is the new  50,000 miles if you ask me.

So 150,000 is it, the point where I quit being worried about how many miles I put on a ride, to wanting to rack them up to hit the next 50,000 mile milestone.  There is a certain sub plot here with me, and that is American cars do last, they get a bad wrap with the national media, and the Big Three DOES BUILD QUALITY PRODUCTS.  While I do think (and wish) more people should buy American name plates, I don’t want this post to turn into a pro American car one, or an anti foreign one.  I work for a company (an American company) whose biggest customer right now is Toyota.  Having worked on programs for Toyota, Honda, Subaru, KIA, and Hyundai, I understand that this is a global market, and the sales of vehicles in general help my company out, and keep me employed. 

I do buy American name plate cars, and more specifically Chrysler American name plate cars (you know aside from the German made 66 bug).  This is mostly due to the fact that my father worked for Chrysler, it is hard to beat his employee discount on cars and parts, and I still have a good network of knowledge from his Chrysler contacts that help when I work on and service my vehicles.

Which leads to my final point, I maintain my own vehicles.  Recently on the Sebring, I replaced all four struts, rear ball joints, front ball joints (upper and lower), front sway bar links, among some other things.  I am my own warranty policy as a diesel buddy of mine likes to say.  I think when you do this, you take more pride in owning a vehicle that has racked up a bunch of miles.  When you can tell someone that your car has 160,029 miles on it, and quickly go through in your head the list of maintenance items you have personally performed to help keep on the road to hit that number, your smile gets a little larger when you tell the story.

200,000 miles is less than 40,000 miles away, and I can’t wait to write the blog.  Now, if everyone can join me in knocking on wood so something catastrophic doesn’t happen now, I would appreciate it.

Thanks for Stopping By - Dan

April 24, 2009

Under Pressure

AMC's V-8's have never been known for having strong oiling systems, in fact, quite the contrary, they are known for pretty piss poor oiling systems.

During the most recent Gremlin X engine rebuild, I was talked into opening up the bearing clearances on the 401 that powers the Grem.  What used to be 0.0015 - 0.0020 was raised to 0.0025 - 0.0030.  I was never comfortable with these numbers, but was getting the info from what we will call "The Yoda" of AMC engines (and several other makes as well) so I went with it.  It is my humble opinion this lowered our oil pressure 5 - 10 lbs.

Next time I will take the "it's my motor, I will build it my way" approach.  I've rebuilt this motor 4 times since 2000.  Twice because of issues (cracked main cap, and cracked cylinder head), and twice just as "routine maintenance".  I know this motor, what it likes, how it likes it, and how it runs, and I knew 0.0030 was too big.

So based on this recent build, we can say that as pressure to open up clearances increases, engine oil pressure decreases. My stupidity, or course, remains constant.

Recently the 2002 Chrysler Sebring's (my daily driver) oil pressure idiot light started to flicker at me while sitting at stop lights idling, the light will flicker, and like an idiot, I've done nothing about it to this point.  This is why it is an idiot light.

It pisses me off that there is no gauge on the car, just the light.  When does the light come on, 20 lbs, 10lbs, 5lbs?  The car idles at 600RPM, so I would be ok with 15 or even 10lbs, as long as it goes to 40 or 45lbs when I'm driving.  The problem is I don't know, because the f--king engineers at Chrysler decided that I didn't need to know exactly what it was, just that it is low enough to turn on a light.

On a side note, and much to my wife's shagrin, the car is going to get an oil gauge, and me being me, will probably get an AutoMeter graphite faced gauge or something to that affect.

On a side note the side note, no 'A' Pillar gauge pods, this car isn't fast and sure isn't furious!

So why am I telling you about my oil pressure woes?  Because a few days ago, I drempt about oil pressure.  First it was the Gremlin not having any, my dream was just me in the car warming it up at the track and seeing the gauge not move off of zero.

From there it went to the fix creating too much oil pressure, and blowing seals all over the motor.  It was very graphic in my dream, like a Hollywood movie would be (you know, like the fast and furious) with hoses shooting off of things, oil spraying everywhere, even the line going to the gauge in the car bursting, and covering the interior with oil.

Next I was in the race shop coming up with a solution, which I never got to, because I woke up.

So I know a handful of you reading this know what I'm talking about.  Of all the things I could...and probably should...be dreaming about, you know, sports, friends, girls (only my wife of coures!), I'm dreaming about cars and oil pressure.

I've heard that if you dream about drinking and getting drunk, you may be an alcoholic.  Guess I'm addicted to cars and racing.  Anyone know of a good 12 step program for that?

Thanks for Stopping By - Dan

February 23, 2009

You're A Tool

Following a previous post about how it is a strange relationship between a gearhead and his vehicles, I will continue with that thread and talk about a gearhead and his tools.

Some of you know I recently had the misfortune of getting laid off from my job working for an automotive supplier.  I was recently called back (for now) and while I was moving back into my tool box I realized something that might make for a good post.

On a side note, it is odd how my observations of events, things, activities around me have changed slightly since I've joined the blogger ranks.  Things that I used to see that I found interesting, are now things that I believe would make a good post, or other people who read this might find interesting.  That is the light bulb that goes off now, and the one that went off when I was putting my tools away.

A while back my job outfitted me with what could loosely be called a "set of tools" to help me perform my day to day duties.  These are tools from Harbor Freight (HF from here on out), and many of you know the positive thing about HF is that they sell cheap tools.  You also know the bad thing about HF is that...they sell cheap tools.  In the infancy of my work tools life, I had to replace a file (you know a file is of high quality when you are filing on some steel, and notice the shavings that are being produced are from BOTH the steel piece you are working on AND the file!) a 12oz hammer (I know there is no need to even mess with a 12oz hammer...which is somewhat the point of this post), and a 4mm 1/4 drive socket that became a circle after only a couple dozen uses.

Because of the lack of quality in some of the tools, and just the lack of some tools that I needed, I decided to buy some tools on my own, that I would keep at work and take them should I ever leave.  This list includes but is not limited to:

Diagonal Cutters or "dikes" as they are often referred to, and that is how I refer to them, because dikes is a cool word.  Also what sounds better and more manly in a shop or garage?  "Hey, can you toss me those diagonal cutters," or "Hey, can you toss me those dikes?"  Case closed.

Standard Pliers (the pliers provided were poor, and would open during normal use, unacceptable).

Vise Grips (see the trend starting with the lack of pliers given to us)

4.8v Minimite Dremel Tool

Craftsman ratcheting bit driver (with bits, we go through T-25 torx bits like water here at work)

A real set of files (see story above)

A 9 volt Black and Decker drill motor (which is really a glorified screw driver, but the work provided drill motor is "hard to find" at times)

I found something odd. I was packing up for what was then my 93 day weekend, and after just listing these items above, I knew exactly what was mine and what belonged to work.  I didn't have to think back and remember, or mentally go over when I bought what.  I opened up my work tool box, and what was mine and what was works was instantly apparent, with no issues or problems.

Then I realized that this is not the first time this has happened.  I've been working with someone be it with work stuff, or personal stuff, where you are helping someone, or they are helping you, and over the course of the project, various tools are brought out, and used, and when the project is over, each guy knows what is his, and what isn't.  You go through the check list with everyone that was working with you...this is mine...this isn't mine...this is yours...whose is this, and with rare exception you leave the project with all your tools.

Who knows why this is?  Maybe from working with them so much, maybe the feel they have in your hand, you know what is yours. 

I would compare it to when women talk about getting married.  One woman might question if she is with the right guy, and ask, how do you know?  The other woman will say, "OH, YOU JUST KNOW!"  The same can be said with a man and his tools, the conversation might go like this:

(I know it would be odd for a woman and a man to be talking about his tools...in the garage that is...but just work with me)

Woman: "Is this your wrench?"

Man: "Yes."

Woman: "How do you know? it doesn't have your name on it or anything."

Man: "OH, I JUST KNOW!"

Thanks for Stopping By - Dan

January 20, 2009

So Long Old Friend.

Never ashamed to admit that I'm a big Daryl Hall and John Oates Fan, the song I can't seem to shake from my head at the moment is "She's Gone" from their 1973 album Abandoned Luncheonette.

My 1995 Dodge Ram 3500 (Dually) 4x4 Cummins that has been in the family since May of 1994, when it was new, and that I've personally owned since May of 1998, was sold to the highest bidder, and no longer a part of my life.

Today is a sad day in the Perrine household...well, maybe a sad day for the author.   I believe my wife is pretty indifferent, sad that I'm sad, but not too concerned either way.  One of her first comments after the truck drove off was, "God that truck stinks!"

Funny the relationship between a gear head and his vehicles.  I currently have a 1987 Dodge Ramcharger that has been parked (some would argue if it is parked or stranded) just off the turn around in my driveway since the summer of 2003.  Aside from being started a few times, washed probably twice, and driven a couple of times since 2003, the truck has sat, awaiting new piston rings in the 7th and 8th cylinders.

There are holes in the rear quarter panels, the 'C' pillar is begining to rot, the windshield is toast. It sits on 3 flat tires (but they will hold air), with two different styles of rims.  Each year as more and more pine tree sap and needles drip onto the roof, I think about getting rid of it, but just can't do it.

Why?

I have no specific answer, but think it is just because of the memories.  This was my college truck, got me through four...ok, five years of college, and Michigan Upper Peninsula winters.  I've drank a lot of Pepsi's in this truck (sorry, my parents might read this).  You could easily fit two 12 packs of Pepsi in the huge center console.  5 guys could fit comfortably and drink said Pepsi's while on our way to our favorite smelt dipping spot, hunting spot, race track, whatever function you can think of. 

SIDE NOTE: I always wanted to put a drain plug in that thing so you could add ice to keep the 12 packs of pepsi cold.

Also this was the first engine build project I did with my dad.  I had always helped him with various cars he was working on, but this one was mine.  When the truck was bought, it had a miss, turned out to be valve seals, so we replaced the heads (don't ask where we got two brand new heads for a Mopar 360), and remembering that one thing always leads to another if you got the heads off, might as well change the cam, put a new Edelbrock intake and a Holley 650 on it as well.  We opted to keep the stock exhaust manifolds, but all the emision equipment was removed, and we ran true duals out the back through two flow master mufflers.

Now the performance and sound didn't match the look of the truck, so new aluminum rims and 33" tires were added to complete the project.

I typed all that to sum it up with this...Nope, can't sell it have no idea what I want to do with it, but can't part with it.

Now onto the Dually, Darth Vader as my dad and his buddies called it, and The Pig as my wife knows it.  Why was I so torn up with the sale of this truck as I watched it pull out of the driveway?

For the better part of the last three years, I've cursed this truck.  It was loud, it does stink, both doors, both front fenders, parts of the floor board, the bed, all had holes in them.  The back up lights didn't work, every time I hooked up a trailer to it, I had to "fiddle" with the trailer connector to get every light working.

It was down to two speakers that worked well in the truck.  Buttons were starting to fall off the radio, it leaked coolant, it burned oil, trac bars needed to be replaced about every 300 miles or so.  Just in the past year alone, I had to change the starter in the parking lot of a Bally's in Waterford, change the trac bar, replace the headlight a few times, change rear drive shaft u-joints, change the turn signal flasher can, and that is just off the top of my head.

The heater didn't work real well.  When the temp dipped below 20, I would have to wear my Ice King boots to keep my feet warm.  And yet with all of this, I was sad to watch the "www.dndracing.com" decal on the tailgate drive off out of my life.

Though I didn't drink near as much "Pepsi" in this truck as I did my Ramcharger, this truck did make several trips north pulling a couple sleds, head north to deer camp, drag the race cars to various tracks and appointments.  It also moved me into a new home...twice.

There was not another one like it, if people knew me and the truck, they always knew when I passed.  Hell, some people could even tell I was coming by the SOUND of the truck.  A co-worker once asked me, "was that thing a cement truck in a previous life?!".

I could make the truck smoke on command.  I'm not talking a little smoke, I'm talking in violation of most EPA regulations smoke.  I would get out of the clutch, and stand on the throttle, watch the RPM's drop, and before the turbo could spool up to feed enough air to match the massive amount of fuel that was being pumped into the cylinder, I would check the passenger side rear view mirror, just in time to notice whatever was behind me become less and less visible because of the immense black cloud that had engulfed whatever was in it's path.  This was a great tool for tailgaters, or to annoy my friends and/or wife if they were following me.

Yes, I was proud of my carbon footprint, and it's contribution to global warming.

As much as I like our new truck, it is not unique, it blends in (as much as a red truck can) with the rest of the cookie cutter metal boxes that roll down the street.  It doesn't smoke, and the exhaust even smells a little sweet for lack of a better term.

So what causes a gearhead to choke up a bit when he watches his 15 year old high milage truck with minimal heat and no 3rd gear drive down his driveway with someone else behind the wheel for the last time.

It's all the upgrades, repairs, bloody nuckles, and TLC that he is watching leave.  It is a 336,891 miles of memories that he has now passed onto someone else.

Remember Darth, the Force will be with you...always.