Check Before Your Pour … and Before You Fill!

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The other day, I changed the oil/filter in one of my old cars. Because I have a small fleet of antique vehicles, as well as several “daily drivers” (plus a lot of equipment, including a tractor, riding mower, generator – you get the drift) that also need their oil/filters changed periodically, it is easy to lose track of which gets what – and most of all, how much.

The old car, for instance. It’s an old Pontiac (’76 Trans Am). I know – because I am an old Pontiac guy – that all classic Pontiac V-8s (the 455, as in my car, bu also the 428, the 400, the 350 and the 326) take not the usual five quarts of oil that most American V-8s need but six. A person not into Pontiacs – or knowledgeable out them – or lacking a service manual – could easily make the mistake of under-filling the crankcase. Oil is important. You want enough of it inside your engine.

And, the reverse.

My four cylinder pick-up trucks only take a bit more than four quarts. Overfilling can be worse than underfilling the crankcase – but either can lead to troubles easily avoided by being sure to check before you pour.

And, measure before you pour.

It’s pretty common today for oil to be sold in five quart jugs. But what if – as in the case of my Nissan pick-ups – you need 4.2quarts? Some jugs have marker lines, but some don’t – and sometimes, the gradations are not very precise. To be sure, you can measure out the oil into a beaker – or use a quart bottle.

And, if you don’t do your own oil changes, be sure to check the work of whoever does. At most oil change joints, they do not pour the oil in a quart at a time. They use a gun that meters out “x” quantity from a 50 gallon drum. It is not uncommon for the guy wielding the gun to over (or under) fill the crankcase. Which is why the first thing you ought to do after getting your keys back is pop the hood and pull out the dipstick. Be sure it’s right before you drive away.

Here’s another – tire air pressure.

If you own several vehicles – especially if some are much older and some much newer – you will discover (or may already know) that tire pressure recommendations can vary a lot from one vehicle to another. For one thing, the old 28-32 psi rule that used to be a good rule of thumb for most cars does not apply anymore. Some of the new cars I test drive recommend 40 psi – or even more. Thus, 32 psi would be significantly under-inflated, and your car’s handling would be sloppier, its braking distances longer – and its gas consumption higher. On top of all that, the tires will wear faster, too.

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