Vehicle maintenance - Inspection and Tools

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stoney126

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Greeting all, I have assumed that most on this site are pretty mechanically inclined and do most of maintenance themselves. But Id thought I'd run over some things As far as Maintenance and parts to look at during inspection along with some tools That may be worth investing in that may aid with repairs at home and on the road/trail.

First Your Owners Manual. There is alot of info in their. From schedules for maintenance and some have torque ratings. most have schedules A and B one for normal driving and The other for severe driving , stop and go , lots of towing or hauling a bunch of stuff in the desert at a slow pace. Recommendations from manufactures vary and maintenance schedules vary from vehicle to vehicle. Be aware that service intervals are not end all be all. Engine oil is he big one here. What isnt mentioned in the service manuals is that your engine may consume a quart of oil every thousand miles and will go up to a quart every 750 miles after 50k miles . this is considered normal from many manufactures. the problem comes from your indicator on most newer vehicles saying 5 to 10k miles intervals. The math shows youll have no oil and this has been the case for several warranty concerns. With some intake valves being hydraulically operated - no oil = stall and no start, or in worse case scenarios engine failure due to spun rods. So in short every other oil change check your oil.
Staying under the hood is checking you trans fluid, assuming you have a dipstick- some vehicles are not equipped with trans dip stick and are only available through the dealer as there is a certain way the trans fluid needs to be checked. Though In some instances you can by the ones used at the dealer and look online to get an idea of the correct level it should be at . Though even if your not comfortable checking for the correct level you at least and check the condition the fluid. Fluid color will vary from different makes and models. so check it when its new or when the service has been performed. This will give you a clear indication of problems down the road or something that may be needing immediate attention.
Dark colored fluid is on its way out and may be burning. There isn't mistaking burnt trans fluid its pretty awful. For the Manual guys assuming you have a Hydraulically controlled clutch the fluid is located usually by the Master cylinder and Brake booster. Usually a pilsner color is what you want. Brake fluid should be this color as well in most cases. Most recommendations for changing of the brake fluid is every two years or sooner if a certain amount of moisture is present in the fluid. there's a few ways to check the fluid , ph strips from any parts store or some tool trucks sell a simple led meter . The fluid level is something to be aware of. Low fluid can be attributed to several things. A leaking master cylinder or brake caliper or other component, though it would be pretty obvious if you have a leak. The Other thing is the wear of the brake pads and drum shoes. Some techs myself included Dont usually top off brake fluid unless dangerously low and at that point other things need to be addressed .

The last fluid at least that I can think of is the coolant. level is of course important but There is Electrolysis that occurs when fluid starts to break down and will start to eat away at the materials of you engine. You can use a voltmeter to measure voltage. A max of .4 volts is what you want to cap. anymore suggests that the corrosion inhibitors are pretty much gone. The use of a prestone gauge or better yet a refractometer to dial in your coolant to water ratio- I usually try to run distilled water when I flush systems as tap I have read shortens the lifespan of coolant. Coolant life is usually 3/5/10 though life can be shortened due to contamination . Also coolant color isnt what you should go by or generic all purpose coolant should be avoided . You have IAT / OAT / HOAT coolants a google search will explain these products. They are not be mixed as they will coagulate cause a bunch of clogging that wont be easy to fix

Next we will talk seapage vs leaks. tomorrow as thats alot typing. also If you want to know how to test something ask away. Ill try and pictures of good and bad fluids along with failed components .

A picture of the brake fluid tester I use - its not pinpoint but it gives you pretty good idea of the quality of your brake fluid.
fluidtester1.jpg
 
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mmnorthdirections

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Great info and thread @stoney126
I would like to add some transmission info. For me I maintain a 2010 Toyota FJ cruiser auto 4x4 and it has a sealed transmission with WS (world standard) fluid. The service interval is not discussed in the owners manual as this would increase cost of ownership and the manufacture has left it out. In my research of this fluid and it's service life, it is recommended that due to fluid breakdown it should be changed and the dealer cost for this is quit high due to machine cost, fluid cost, and mechanic time. Also the service must be performed at operating transmission temp so the "specific gravity" volume of fluid is correct (that equals more mechanic time). I had this service done by the dealer to ensure it was done correctly and a record for any warranty issue down the line. Just to add that this fluid is very prevalent in newer automatic Toyota vehicles and others out there.
Robert, I would really appreciate your feedback/input on this. Be cool!!!!!
 

stoney126

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I cant speak on that with first hand Knowledge on Toyota, guess I can hop underneath the 4runner but chrylser is doing the same thing and Imagine the procedure is on par with what Toy and other manufactures are doing. The sealed for life Transmissions Can be checked out and you can verify fluid degradation but getting a sample is kind of pain as "topping off" removed fluid is difficult to do and the fill needs to be precise. Though location of ports are not usually easy to get to and will sometimes need removing other parts to gain access . Most shops wont check the fluid either during a regular inspection, at least not on a sealed trans as it is very time consuming (think exhaust running right over fill plug, thanks chrysler)

The service like you said is something that should be done by a pro. there are procedure that must be followed to fill the trans and where to fill it to "specific gravity". which usually is a chart that you reference for volume vs temp and trans adaptations to set .
It should be said with any repair or service, if its not something your confident about and research isnt answering the questions that arise, take it to a pro.
 
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MOAK

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wow, sealed transmissions. what'll they think of next? With all the new innovations that keep us from being able to do even minor service on newer vehicles, I think I'll be keeping my 80 series for a very long long time. (currently 257k miles on original trans and bottom end.) However, if I ever stumbled across a factory diesel 80 series diesel, I'd scoop it up in a heartbeat, if the price was right..
 

stoney126

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Ya thats the trade off with getting 8 and 9 speeds out of transmissions. Gives you the better power band and fuel mileage but service will cost you a bit.
 

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This is a Robinair refractometer. It is used to test antifreeze and battery fluid. It is a valuable tool that most would never think about but with aluminum components in most cars antifreeze can be very corrosive if not properly maintained. You should be checking it about every three months and along with the pH of the coolant. Most people pick up a hydrometer at the local auto store and call it good but they tend to be about 20 to 25 degrees off which could be a problem depending on where you are and plan on operating.
 

stoney126

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This is a Robinair refractometer. It is used to test antifreeze and battery fluid. It is a valuable tool that most would never think about but with aluminum components in most cars antifreeze can be very corrosive if not properly maintained. You should be checking it about every three months and along with the pH of the coolant. Most people pick up a hydrometer at the local auto store and call it good but they tend to be about 20 to 25 degrees off which could be a problem depending on where you are and plan on operating.
That's exactly what I used at work. Used something very similar for testing D.e.f. fluid too. It doesn't take anytime to test either.
 

64Trvlr

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This is a Robinair refractometer. It is used to test antifreeze and battery fluid. It is a valuable tool that most would never think about but with aluminum components in most cars antifreeze can be very corrosive if not properly maintained. You should be checking it about every three months and along with the pH of the coolant. Most people pick up a hydrometer at the local auto store and call it good but they tend to be about 20 to 25 degrees off which could be a problem depending on where you are and plan on operating.
I though I was the only one that used one of these, every time I get mine out to use it someone always says "what the hell is that"?
 
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Dilldog

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A few words on service intervals. All intervals set by manufacturers are based on using OE filters and oil and in a lab. Running anything outside of that will influence the intervals. The only way to be sure would be to pull oil samples. I just over service my rigs and Im OK with that. If you are going to follow the MFG intervals to the T, I would highly recommend running only OE parts, oil, and filters to have the best chance of good results.
 
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systemdelete

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Most recent issue I’ve had is finding coolant that was truly safe for brass, solder, copper, and aluminum for my truck. MANY of these newer formulations on the shelf for modern vehicles aren’t, and my local parts store didn’t stock concentrate of compatible fluid like I needed to get the freeze protection I required. Good resource I found for those of us with older trucks was tractor supply, many older tractors still call for traditional fluids and updated formulations of those safe for brass and solder.