Getting down and dirty






Tour time is upon us and most of us are anxious to get out and enjoy the “good ole summertime.” Last month we talked about “Tune”-ing up and hopefully this is now done, so let’s move on to the next step to get ready to tour and talk about a good lube job.


Again, I want to remind you of two things. First of all, your old LaSalle or Cadillac is not a daily driver and is considered high usage if you reach or exceed 2,000 miles per year. Forget mileage and think of time. A car in regular use can go 1,000 miles or more between lube jobs as the lubricants are kept pliable by use and movement of lubricated parts. When a car sits idle for longer periods of time, the grease tends to harden and settle, leaving critical areas void of lubrication.


Secondly, a car that is 50-plus years old did not have the advantage of modern mechanical and chemical technology. What your original manual recommendations said was best for your car was gospel 50 years ago...but is somewhat outdated today. Many modern cars can go 50,000-plus miles without a lube job—what with sealed bearing systems and all. This is due to design improvements and highly-improved lubricants.


Now let’s get down to giving the ole girl a good lube job.


First of all, raise the car up onto four jack stands placed on the body or frame in such a manner to allow all four wheels and springs to hang free. Now get ready to “get down and dirty.” Fill your hand grease gun with good moly-based grease. Before you crawl under the car, turn your steering wheel from lock to lock a couple of times. Have the lube chart from your shop manual handy for reference and mentally divide your car into four quarters—then do one quarter at a time.


Start at whatever corner you want, but it will probably work better starting at the right front. Put a floor jack under the right front spring and raise it to the point it starts to lift the car off of that jack stand and then lightly bounce the car up and down a couple of times. Now let the jack back down to where the wheel is hanging free. It is now time to get down under. Take your grease gun and a couple of rags with you to wipe off any clumps of grease you find.


Clean off all grease fittings. Inspect for loose bolts and tighten them. Grease each fitting until grease comes out or it won’t take any more. If you can’t get grease to go in or when you take the gun off grease oozes out of the small filler hole, replace the fitting and try again. After you have checked your manual and greased all of the ZERKS, make sure all excess grease is wiped clean. Now get out and again turn your steering wheel lock to lock a couple of times and repeat the jacking up of the spring and bouncing it up and down.


Take the jack out and go around greasing each ZERK again…wipe off any excess grease. While the wheel is still hanging down, fill the shock on that side with shock absorber oil. If you can’t find shock oil, get a good grade of motorcycle fork oil. You will probably have to use a syringe to do this.


Now go to the driver’s side and repeat the process. On that side you will have some additional fittings for brake and clutch mechanisms. Also, this is a good time to repack your front wheel bearings. Clean them good with solvent before repacking them. If you have them clean and you spin them in your fingers, make sure they run smooth. If not, replace them. Repack and clean with a good moly-based grease.


Now is also the time to check your steering gear box and fill with good hypoid lube, making sure all bolts are tight. Getting back to your transmission, if you don’t know the last time it was changed, drain it and fill with a modern moly-based multi-grade 80-90W hypoid grease. If it hasn’t been that long, just fill it to the plug level. If you have one of the old original Hydra-Matic transmissions, first of all, smell it. If it has even a slight burned or sour odor—change it using modern Dextron III. Your service manual will give you detailed instructions on this.


You are now ready to go to the rear wheels. Again, check for any excess grease and wipe off. If you have ZERK fittings on the spring shackles, lube and clean them the same way you did the front, by jacking them up and down.


The rear shocks are a little more difficult to add fluid to, but just as important. Check the fluid in the differential first by smell and feel. If you don’t know for sure the last time it was changed, change it using the moly-based 80–90W hypoid oil. After changing the differential grease and spinning the wheel a few times, listen to each wheel carefully as you turn it. If you hear a grinding sound, it is either a dragging brake or a bad wheel bearing.


Using a mechanic’s stethoscope, you can determine which. If it’s brakes, it can probably be cured by minor adjustment or cleaning. If it is a rear wheel bearing, this is not a job for amateurs…it takes special tools and equipment.


You should be ready to put the car back down now and get under the hood. Put a couple of drops of engine oil in the cups of the starter and generator but don’t overdo it. The same with the throttle linkage. When you get to the water pump, be careful using the grease gun…only lube until you get resistance—do not force it. If grease and/or coolant comes out around the shaft, your water pump is about to go out. You should get it rebuilt soon.


While under the hood, take off the distributor cap and rotor, put a couple drops of oil in the rotor cavity and a light touch of Vaseline on the cam. Turn down the grease cup a turn or until you get resistance. If it goes all the way down, take off the cup and fill it with grease.


To finish up, go around all the door mechanisms and first of all, wipe clean and use a few drops of oil on the hinges. On the striker plates and locking mechanisms, wipe clean and sparingly apply stick grease to the contact surfaces. Also check your battery for water and clean out your air filter and fill to proper level with 50W oil.


Now that you got down and dirty, it is time to get up and clean. You have spent most of the day with your ‘other love,’ so you better take your spouse out to dinner and plan on how you will enjoy your summer touring.


See ya next month.