Let’s take a trip!!
We are winding up the time of year where we get the most fun from our dear old cars. Why? Because of the various outings such as tours, parades, club picnics, shows etc., or any other excuse to drive and enjoy our LaSalle or Caddy by doing more than drive around the block to make sure it still runs.
This last month we have had several events; in fact, so many that it is nearly impossible to attend all of them and still have any personal or business life. I continue to get calls from people in nearly every CLC region asking how to solve problems with some members’ ’37 to ’48 cars. I still say that it is better to prevent a problem than cure it.
Because of our unusual geography, our tours in the Rocky Mountain Region usually involve longer distances and/or mountain driving. These tours and trips that are generally published in our local newsletter and The Self-Starter and cause the question to be asked, “How was your tour to such and such a location, (or parade etc.)?” My usual reply is with the stock answer, “We had a real Archie Bunker trip.” When the reply query comes back, “What do you mean?” Of course, the normal response is, “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great.” This doesn’t happen by accident and it isn’t real hard to prepare for a trip. Here are few tips on preparation.
First of all, it is best to check out your car the day or evening before the trip after the car has set for a while and is “stone cold.” This way, all of the fluids and pressures are at their lowest level.
Starting with the obvious, you check your oil. The dipstick is easier to read and you can get a more precise reading. Add only enough oil to bring it up to the proper level. Do not overfill. There is no law that requires you to add a full quart at a time. If the oil is dirty or gritty, give it a quick oil change. After all, oil you really don’t need is cheaper than replacing metal that you really do need. Think about it.
Next, check your coolant level and add enough 50/50 antifreeze/water solution to bring the level in the radiator up to its natural level. If you overfill and don’t have an overflow tank, it will spill out the overflow pipe when the fluid expands due to heat. Then everybody is quick to advise you that your radiator is leaking or that you are “boiling over.” If your coolant level is right, it will take a lot of overheating to cause an overflow.
A quick check of your belts and hoses will tell you if they need adjusting or replacing. Check your service manual and don’t overtighten the belts. Check all the spark plug wires and make sure they are snug, both on the plugs and into the distributor cap. A quick wipe with a clean rag on all of these wires can prevent unwanted arcing, which, incidentally is a common hidden cause of overheating.
A quick look under the car will disclose any fluid leaks. Don’t fret too much, because most of these old cars have some minor leaks. If it is a leak in a manual transmission, check and fill as needed while it is cold. With an automatic transmission, you will want to wait until later after you make the startup and then check and fill per instructions in your service manual.
If you have access to compressed air, clean out the fins of the radiator by blowing air into the rear of the radiator thus cleaning out road debris. If you brush the front of the radiator with a fairly soft brush or a whisk broom, then blow it of again with your compressed air. Maybe a quick check under the hood of the electrical connections, (i.e. generator, voltage regulator etc.) tighten them as needed.
A check of tire pressure (including the spare) and you are ready to fire up and check for any leaks or abnormal running. Make sure you let it warm up long enough to evaporate any condensation in the exhaust and internal parts of the engine. If you have an automatic transmission, now is the time to check it. By the way, the dirty moisture coming out of the exhaust pipe is usually normal condensation and nothing to worry about.
If you are going to wash the car, dust it off first. You will get a better wash job with less streaking. You will probably need to dust it off again when you get to your destination so the old girl looks her best.
By the way—when you fill the gas tank, it is always best to fill it early in the cool of the morning. You will get better gas mileage and performance the cooler the fuel is when you put it in the tank. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why. (No offense, Art.)
You are now ready for a good trip, and hopefully your old Caddy will run like a LaSalle and you too can have an “Archie Bunker Trip.” Of course, you LaSalle drivers will have the type of trip you expect and are used to.
Happy motoring and I hope to see you all next month.