Project Hyper-Miler Part 2: Maintenance
by Steve Rockwood
I hate maintaining vehicles. Nothing is worse than sweating your ass off and busting knuckles for hours only to have a car that was only as good as when you started. No better, no worse (hopefully). If cars stayed clean, parts never wore out, and oil stayed golden, I'd piss my pants in jubilation. Unfortunately, everything on this planet has a nasty habit of degrading, and cars are no exception.
The first thing anyone should do when buying a used car of any age is give it a thorough cleaning inside and out. Cleaning the car will reveal a lot of things you may have missed when purchasing. If it's an especially cheap and ratty car, you even get the joy of discovering loose change cemented to floorboards with soda or coffee, condom wrappers, hypodermic needles, crack pipes, broken bong parts, and all sorts of other interesting items. If you discover something that may have been involved in a murder or other violent crime, notify the police immediately, or throw it away in the neighbor's trash if you fear retribution from the previous owner.
|Amazing what a good wash and wax does to what at first appeared to be a tired paint job.
Luckily, this car had none of those interesting items. What it did have, however, was a pervasive cigarette odor. By pervasive cigarette odor, we don't mean drunk high school chick who thinks she's cool, we mean the guy you get stuck with on the elevator with the yellow teeth, yellow hair, Marlboro-man-gone-south-gravelly-voice, hasn't taken a shower in a while, chain-smoking pervasive cigarette odor. Every time we got in the car, someone would invariably quote Forrest Gump thusly: “sorry to ruin your New Year's Eve party, Lieutenant Dan, she tasted like cigarettes.” Obviously, we knew about this when we bought it, but having never smoked with any kind of frequency, we figured it couldn't be that hard to remove. We were wrong. At first, we tried simple things like air fresheners and spraying the upholstery. When that failed, a snowstorm of baking soda was thrown into the car, let sit for a day, then vacuumed. The cigarette smell scoffed at our pathetic attempts to defeat it like a Frenchman (who also smells like cigarettes) pooh-poohing American culture. Finally, we took off interior panels, headliner, center console, as well as any other part of the interior that had fabric, and gave it the “sniff test” outside the car. If it smelled like the Circus Circus casino floor, we either sprayed it with Febreze until it was soaked and let dry in the sun, or we threw it away if it was an especially heinous non-critical part (like the foam ring surrounding the shifter, or the floormats). We wiped down every hard surface with a multi-surface cleaner pilfered from the kitchen (most of which revealed yellow tar on white papertowels) and were finally getting somewhere. After the thorough nicotine purge, the car still had that “did someone smoke in here at one time?” smell, but could easily be covered up with an air freshener.
|Many hours of hard work went into cleaning the smell of Circus Circus out of our Jetta, as well as over 100,000 miles of stains and abuse.
Cleaning involved the engine bay as well. Cleaning the engine on your newly acquired car allows you to more easily find the source of the oily disaster under the hood. Something like a valve cover leak can cover up an amazing percentage of the engine block, transmission, and accessories, and cover up that coolant weep you might have, or the slow leak from the power steering pump, or the rear main seal leaking. Cleaning the engine also prevents you from looking like a coal miner every time you go to work on your car. To clean our engine, we first removed the engine cover and washed it in a simple dish soap and water solution. While we were cleaning the cover, we liberally sprayed the engine with Motul Moto Wash. Motul Moto Wash works wonderfully at cutting grease, etc, from the engine, and also doesn't seem to etch aluminum like other products can. It also leaves the engine with a slightly glossy shine and protects from future corrosion. After the Moto Wash settled in for 5 minutes or so, we put an old toothbrush (you could also use your roommate's) to use scrubbing the especially filthy nether regions of the engine. Another liberal dose of Moto Wash, another scrub, and we rinsed it down with the hose. Note that unless you're being stupid about things and directly spraying water into fuse boxes and the intake, you don't need to cover everything up. If you're washing a gasoline engine, just make sure that you didn't flood the spark plug wells with water. Someone must have stolen ours, as we can't seem to find them.