Reader Question: Most Neglected Service?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Tony asks: What, in your opinion, do people tend to neglect most when it comes to car maintenance?

My reply: Two things come to mind immediately.

The first thing is the fuel filter – which in many new cars is out of sight (and so, out of mind) in the gas tank. Or located underneath the car (rather than under the hood) along the frame rails, in between the gas tank and the engine. But the fuel still needs to be filtered – and filters don’t last forever.

Check your vehicle’s service recommendations and you’ll find the time/mileage intervals. If you didn’t by the car new – and you don’t know the filter has been changed – assume it hasn’t been.

And get it changed.

If it’s in the tank, it’s a PITAS. But it might be underneath the car and more accessible. Regardless, take care of this – and keep up with this.

Second item: Brake (and clutch slave cylinder, if the car has a manual transmission) fluid. People understand that brake pads wear out as you drive. So does brake (and clutch slave cylinder) fluid. Heat and chemical degradation and water contamination will do the job – on the fluid as well as your wallet, if you don’t purge/replace the fluid every 2-3 years or so.

This isn’t a difficult – or expensive job. But it can lead to difficult and expensive jobs (e.g., damaged master cylinder, ABS pump, calipers, brake lines) if you don’t do it.

So do it!

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. eric, take an informal poll of people you don’t hang with and some you do. You will find tire gauges have become an unknown for a whole new breed of idiots. I see vehicles left and right with ruined tires, expensive tires at that. This mostly originates from simply paying no attention to tires or their pressure(or lack thereof).

    Even my mother, not the sharpest knife in the drawer for keeping a vehicle running, would notice a low tire and have someone check it. Now we have these people who don’t even have a clue. Give them a $50 digital gauge and they’d have fun watching the display but never use it. Hand them an old Milton big rig style and they wouldn’t touch it.

    The second thing I’d say is not even knowing how to check the engine oil. That’s what my husband is for I’ve heard countless times. But you don’t have a husband, you’re divorced. Yeah, the SOB won’t even check my oil now and he knows his kids are riding in this car. Well, he’s probably worried about the driver more than the oil.

    Most people have to get a ticket to get a headlight replaced. I’d say changing fuel filters, oil filters and air filters are way down the list for the genital population.

    I’ve mentioned fuel filters and most people give you a clueless look(it may be why your car is not running right and the Check Engine Light is on. When was the last time you changed your air cleaner? Answer: Where is it? Probably close to the dipstick. Where is that?

    It’s unavoidable to reach the conclusion we live in a country full of uneducated idiots who can’t even check the oil or the tires or deal with a burned out headlight(I can understand that one since certain vehicles must have the entire front end or rear end of the body removed to replace a light. Take it to the stealership and get a $1,000 repair bill for changing a light….and then having body parts fall off. Dealers will hire anyone to work as a technician.

    I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve had to show somebody how to change a truck tire flat and they’re charging $80 for me to show them how. There used to be hubs with rims that fit over them, Erie style or some called “Ohio” style wheels on a big rig. I pulled into a shop one day to get a trailer tire fixed on a rig with those types of wheels. I had to show the guys how to get the rim/tire off. Once with the nuts removed, they were trying to beat it off from the backside. You have to keep these wheels aligned with the hub nearly perfectly to take them off and put them on. I went into the “forbidden” area and moved them out of the way, then grabbed the tire on both sides, got it loose from being jammed and slowly pulled it to the edge of the hub. They were going “wow”. I have to watch them like a hawk to have the valve stems in a place you can reach the inside wheel or they’ll just put it on willy-nilly with one valve stem hidden behind the outside wheel.
    Never give anyone too much credit till they’ve done the work properly. At least most of the chain truckstops have torque wrenches for wheels these days.

    I work with a guy who’s supposed to be an ex trucker who will walk over to a truck, crank up the engine and not even check the tires. It boggles my mind. It’s such a habit with me I check the oil on anything before cranking it and definitely check every tire on a rig before moving it.

    There’s a tire on the trailer of a rig I normally drive with a leading valve stem. Last week the boss asked if that tire had any air or was flat. I looked at it from 100 feet away and said It’s flat. How can you tell? I see the very edge of the wheel sticking out too much. Look at the tire behind it, you can barely see that part of the wheel. The next day the pickup with the compressor was gone so I had to pull it to the shop and knew it would be off the rim by the time I got it there. I picked up and old hydraulic cylinder and put it under the mate that was up, pulled up on the cylinder and managed to wrangle with it and got it to take air, something you have to learn from experience. Later the boss walks by and says “You’ve got an old cylinder under that tire” as if I didn’t know it. I told him I did that to take the pressure off the flat tire to get it back on the rim. Hmm, he says. So I get to the pit and there’s the driver who checked nothing, stuck with the bottom of the belly dump on a loading ramp. I walk over and he says I guess I cut it too sharp. He’s trying to push it off with the loader but can’t. He says he’ll just dump the load. Well, the doors aren’t going to open against the ground. I tell him to get back on the loader and I’ll get in the tractor and we’ll have it off in a jiffy. I turned off the diff lock before he got in since he’d probably driven it like that all day.

    He left, I cleaned up the mess and loaded my truck. That guy is supposedly my superior.


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