Today I have the opportunity to work on another old car. While it isn’t exactly a “classic” like an Alfa GTA or ’55 Chevy (the ‘57s are just too gaudy for me) it is very near and dear to someone’s heart, so I am taking great care with it. I am cautious when I drive it and try to let the wrenches caress the fasteners, rather than just man-handle them. In reality, the car isn’t worth much to most of the world, but after spending some time with “Nellie” I have come to a conclusion: they don’t make ‘em like they used to.
The beautiful thing about Nellie is how she is the last from a bygone era. She’s not a big German luxury barge, nor is she powered by an American small-block V8. She’s not even rear wheel drive. (the horror!) She’s just a humble baseline 1990 Honda Civic, but a completely capable car. She’s as basic as they come—a reminder of simpler times before power windows, power door locks, power steering, and power outlets became necessities to get from Point A to Point B. It makes me wonder what we’re doing wrong as consumers.
Over the years we have become lazy. We have forgotten how to drive. We’ve demanded the fastest, quietest, most coddling cocoon to wrap ourselves in. We need air conditioning. We can’t live without cup holders. Our arms ache at the thought of having to exert effort while parallel parking. The wheels beneath us cannot slip. Brakes mustn’t lock. A haunting voice will guide us to our destination (or not). Wind must be seen but not heard. And in the event of a collision (who allowed that to happen, anyway?!) we want to be surrounded by pillowy curtains on which to rest our weary heads. (never mind that those same pillows explode with such force that they will take your head clean off if they hit at the wrong angle) Read more
How to actually change the oil
Keep in mind that this is only a guideline for the actual procedure. This is where you should check a service manual to be sure you’re not screwing anything up. (Honestly, my Land Rover is the only vehicle I’ve had that is very specific about the operations procedure, but you never know) Failure to follow the factory instructions can result in the oil pump losing its prime and, thus, its capacity to pump oil. Remember: oil serves as a much better lubricant than air does. The same principle applies if you forget to purchase all your oil and filter prior to getting started. It is tough to drive to the store with no oil in the engine*so be sure you have ENOUGH OIL and the PROPER FILTER and the PROPER TOOLS before you proceed. Got it? Good!
Step 1: Get the oil flowing
The purpose of changing the oil is to get all the worn out oil and dirt out of the engine and replace it with clean, fresh lubricant. Draining cold oil isn’t recommended, as you will be leaving all kinds of dirt inside the engine. By driving your car a few miles before draining the oil, you’re stirring up all the sediment into suspension so it will flow out of the sump with the old oil. Plus, as an added benefit, hot oil running down your arm will warm your extremities if you are forced to service your car in sub-freezing temps. Read more
The question I get asked almost more than any other is: “How do I change my own oil?”* This always makes me smile because I am eager to help those who want to get their hands dirty under the hood. So, I will attempt to help others with similar desires to discover their inner-mechanic with a quick and dirty How-To guide.
When to change your oil
Step one is to determine if it is even necessary to change your engine oil. Answering a few quick questions should give you a good indication of just how much time you have before your next service is due. Read more
There come times in your life when you have to make difficult choices. Many times you can see these crossroads on the horizon, gather information about your options, and make an informed decision. Years later, when looking back on the chosen path, one will often smile inside with the satisfaction of knowing that the correct resolution was reached and life was better for it.
Climbing out from underneath my BMW 325, I was recently faced with just such a dilemma. I am in the process of rebuilding the rear subframe with new bushings, shocks, and springs. Normally, this isn’t such a terrible task. (Normally, the fist-sized metal & rubber subframe bushings don’t break off inside the chassis, during the removal process either.) It took me nearly an entire week’s worth of evenings to get the broken bushing out of the chassis. Trying to do the job right, and since the subframe and rear trailing arms were off the car, I decided to give them a quick coat of semi-gloss black paint to freshen up the underbelly a bit. Things were starting to look up. Read more