Gearhead Diary: The Chicken

Don’t put off that car and truck work

MATTHEW BARTMANN She ain't no beauty queen, but she gets a once-over every year and has never let us down. Ferdie is our work truck, or kept at the ready for an emergency if the snow is too deep for our car.

I’m a procrastinator. Big time. But last summer, I thought I’d maybe change my wicked ways and get down to some vehicle maintenance before the cold set in. I knew our 25-year-old car was due for brakes. I’m also a do-it-yourself type guy. Always have been.

I decided I’d put an end to my habit of putting things off before the cold and snow arrived, and address the issues that needed to be addressed with the car. Our winter car, “The Chicken,” named after the tiny plastic chicken we found in the glove box of the car we bought from a gentleman in Greeley. We asked him if he’d like the little chicken back. “No, that goes with the car,” he replied. Nice guy!

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Anyhow, brakes. I looked at the brakes and realized it was time for rotors and pads all around. While I had the car in the air, I found that exhaust leak that had been bothering us since the previous winter. I also noticed a bad tie rod in the steering, and figured I might as well replace that CV joint that was starting to click click click.

I’d done the belts and hoses (including timing belt and water pump) the previous year, so I knew they were okay.

But…oh boy! This was getting to be a major project. Still, because I’d gotten an early start, the weather was nice.

I ordered all the parts to get all the jobs done at once. Since the car still worked fine, I had time to order parts at the best price and wait for them all to be delivered. I also ordered a new thermostat, remembering the heater performance had dwindled in the latter part of the previous winter. At the same time, I ordered up some parts for our “wood truck,” which is retired from service on public roads, but a good tool nonetheless, and needs to be reliable.

After getting all the parts, I casually set to a day of replacing parts that were sure to fail in the following few months…in the middle of winter.

All winter, The Chicken never skipped a beat with the brakes, steering and exhaust repaired. And the wood truck Ferdie? Never let us down. Never has.

In coming months, TV and newspapers are going to remind you to “winterize” your car. They will offer that reminder about 2 days before the first cold snap or significant snow forecast.

I say, do it now. Don’t be a procrastinator like I used to be. Get those vehicles in good order when it’s easy. When those media reminders come out in a couple of months, you can then swap to snow tires and sit back and relax.

If you are one to take your car to a garage, now is a good time to just have it looked over. As soon as the weather turns bad, you’ll be hard pressed to get an appointment.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go change that thermostat that’s been in the glove box for a year.

Yeah, some things never change.