Thursday, 14 May 2015
Back To Work, Normal Things
One of the things I was taught growing up was simple: check my car's oil. I was also taught how to change the oil (and spark plugs).
I take this a step further and I teach my children too. Every gas tank fill up, one kid gets to pump gas and the other gets to check the oil. They both wash windows and help clean the car up of any trash.
This task is important. Why? Why check the oil if I have no leak?
Well, this is not as obvious.
If I pop the hood open as often as that, I get to know the engine. What it is supposed to smell like. What it looks like. What the sounds are. If I am paying attention? I may spot a problem well before I become an evening news item, a burning carcass of a minivan on a rural Iowa highway. Not that I know of anyone that has happened to. Cough cough.
Seriously though, I have been able to spot issues before they become major expensive or dangerous problems. Bonus, good habits and routine keep my car cleaner than most moms I know. Every tank fill up, instead of standing there looking bored while the gas flows down the hose, I clean out the empty water bottles and discarded apple cores. Gah, I hate apple cores. I love that my kids eat them though. Better than twinkie wrappers, yeah?
My point is, now, when my breaking heart sometimes wants to give in to the chaos, little details like this make the day stay on course. Making my bed in the morning, keeping the spaces around me a little bit extra tidy and sparkly, helps calm the inner mess. The nagging that I failed at my own life, that broken home is now my reality (more on that next post), these things creep up on me and to meet them on the battle field, I come armed with Dawn dish soap and a Norwex cloth (not to be used together, no worries.....).
Back to the blog post at hand.....
To check the oil, find the oil stick. On my cruiser it is labelled with words. Sometime they are not. If it isn't super obvious, check your owner's manual.
Alright, now, pull it out, wipe it down clean with a paper towel, insert it back in and pull out again. Now you can get a reading.
Mine was half full. It gets that way after 7 fill ups or so. The mechanic says not to worry, but to add oil when it gets below the 1/2 mark. Be careful to never put too much in though. The hash marks on the stick are where the line needs to be, somewhere in that range is good. Less is bad, more is bad.
So I needed to add just a little.
My oil cap is labelled with words on the cruiser. One past vehicle I owned it wasn't. That vehicle may have once had windshield washer fluid accidentally put where oil goes. Or vice versa. I don't remember. That wasn't the highway fire though (that wasn't me, y'all).
Anyway, be careful unscrewing the cap. It can be hot or dirty or both. Don't lose it either. Seriously. It is an important piece of your vehicle.
Add a little at a time and repeat the process for checking the level. One time on my old Volvo I added too much and the gasket cap broke. That's the kind of thing that too much oil can cause. That, luckily, was a 5$ fix. Not all things that can go wrong are that easy or cheap.
Screw it on carefully too, when you are done.
I then take a good look at everything else, wiper fluid on my car is obvious without touching it, but power steering and transmission fluids can be checked too (though I don't as often as oil).
The last step is a walk around, visual check of the tires and a peak underneath. If you can see anything leaking, make note of it.
Cars are expensive investments. They need to be taken care of. I have found that this habit is easy to put in place, get my kids involved it, and it makes driving nicer too. Clean cars just make for better travel, in my opinion.
Before I was even allowed to learn to drive I had to know how to: change tires, change oil, and identify basic parts of the engine. Oh, and clock in 2,000 miles once I was learning to drive, before I could get a license. I had to parallel park. I had to spin circles in an icy parking lot to learn how to recover from a spin out on slick roads. I had to learn to read maps and navigate. I had to know how to pop a clutch (function of driving a 71 Beetle with a bad starter.....) and how to jump start a dead battery (love those old VW's)....
These are things anyone taking a heavy metal killing machine out on public roads at high speeds should know how to do.
If you don't? Fix that. It is important.