Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Love My Truck

About 8 years ago, or so, I bought a 1988 Dodge Ram D150 Pickup from the father of my one time secretary, Tammy Temple. A pick up was one of those items of necessity that we did not have when we first moved to our farm. It was beautiful. Ivory Cream. Big engine that roared when you started it; able to haul anything we needed to haul and, I am sure, we hauled some things we had no business hauling in a half-ton pickup. Over the years it has served us well. The starter went out a couple of years ago and as I was working full time at Arkansas Children's Hospital, and having little to no experience in auto mechanical type work - we let it sit.

Then the house burned down and my 2006 Dodge Charger went with it. Needing another vehicle we took it to the local mechanic here in Perryville AR (the best mechanic I've ever known) and he put a starter in it. After sitting for two years - the truck started up and sounded beautiful as we drove it home.

Now it has come into regular use with quick trips into town and our son taking to college at least once a week.

On one trip we made, to Farmington AR to visit my brother Roland, his wife Jennifer, and their daughters, Abby and Molly it did great. Until we tried to start it on Sunday morning to go to church with Roland and the family. It wouldn't start. I called Roland, who had already gotten to Sunday School to let him know that we wouldn't make it, and that I would be working on the truck. Roland left Sunday School to come home and help me. I am not sure if this was piety on his part (helping someone in need) or relief (whew I got out of Sunday School). We were able to trouble shoot the problem, eventually, to a bad voltage regulator that tells the alternator to charge the battery. We replaced this $13.00 part and we were on our way.

During our hail storm this spring the windshield wipers stopped working. I took the panel covering all the linkage off the truck and saw that all the bushings had rotted off the mounts. These hard plastic bushings keep the wiper arms attached to the motor assembly and rack system. Just like the voltage regulator we replaced a couple of months before, these original, 22 year old parts had just worn out.

Last week I finally got around to fixing the windshield wipers on Wednesday. It took me only a couple of hours - Because all the arms and linkages fell into the tray in front of the windshield I had no idea how it all went together. I had found an authorized dealer manual for the truck on the internet for $40.00, bought it, and now was putting it to good use.

Friday, as Patt and I were making farmer's market deliveries in Conway and Little Rock, Ronny called us from the college he attends in Morrilton- 20 miles away. He said the power steering went out on him. I told him, unwisely, I think, to limp it home. When Ronny got home, he called us again and said the truck was really hot and was making terrible noises. When I got home I popped the hood and saw that all three belts were broken and twisted around the cooling fan. Next morning I headed to the local parts store to get belts, antifreeze, and oil. The only way to see if we had damaged the engine was to get it all back together again and try to start it. My plan was, if every thing turned out okay was to replace the antifreeze that had boiled out of the radiator, and change the oil. After all, it had been several years since this was done. I usually practice the Roland Hutchins Method for Oil Replenishment in Old Cars System of oil changes. Or the RHMOROCS Oil change. I just add more when it gets low...

The parts store had everything I needed and in a surprisingly quick turn around, I had the belts replaced, the fluids replenished, and the truck up and running. I do not know when the last time the belts had been replaced but they must have been ancient. I've had the truck for 8 years and I never replaced them and I remember them looking old when we bought it. Could they be original 22 year old belts? I wouldn't be surprised.

This thing was built to last and built to be worked on. Standard parts that I can get from just about any branded parts store and with the manual, I am learning the ins and outs of how everything works. Before we lost everything in the fire and I retired from the rat race, I would not have had the time or the patience to work on something like this myself. Now, spending a day and $15.00 to figure it all out on my own is gratifying.

They don't make trucks like my old 88 Dodge anymore. I can hear Merle singing now - "I wish a Ford and a Chevy (and a Dodge) would still last 10 years like the should"....

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