Keeping It On The Road

Most of us would like our vehicles to last a long time – and cost us as little money as possible during that time. Here are a few tips toward that end:

* If your vehicle has a manual transmission, the first time you start the car in the morning – especially if it’s a cold morning – select neutral after starting the engine, gently release the clutch and let the car idle for about 30 seconds before driving off.

This isn’t about warming up the engine(that’s no longer necessary, unless the car is very old and has a carburetor rather than fuel injection). It’s about circulating gear oil inside the transmission.

WD-40 Specialist Water... Check Amazon for Pricing. With the clutch out and engine running, the transmission is physically connected to the engine; but being in neutral, the car’s not moving. However, inside the transmission, the gears inside are spinning. This spreads lube all over the moving parts before the car begins to move – without putting any real load on them. It also helps to warm up the gear oil, which can get thick sitting overnight (if it’s a cold night) which can make shifting gears a bit harder until everything warms up as well as possibly increasing wear and tear.

Letting the car “idle” for 30 seconds or so when you first start up in the morning is a costless, painless way to help your manual transmission last as long as the car does.

FYI: Some late model manual transmissions use automatic transmission fluid (ATF) rather than gear oil. The ATF is thinner (less viscous; flows more readily when cold) so “warming it up” is less an issue, but there is still a benefit in terms of making sure the transmission’s internals are thoroughly coated before driving off. WD-40 Specialist Rust ... Check Amazon for Pricing.

* Do not let either brake or clutch fluid age like fine wine.

Pop the hood of your car and take a look at the two fluid reservoirs located (usually) on the driver’s side of the firewall. Well, there’ll be two of them if your vehicle has a manual transmission; if it has an automatic there will be just the one. But whether you’ve got one or two, they both use the same hydraulic fluid (generally referred to as brake fluid) and it’s imperative that it not be allowed to “mellow” from its new-condition clear/light yellowish to dark brown blackish. If, that is, you prefer to avoid expensive brake work (master cylinder, ABS components, calipers) and also expensive transmission work.

All modern vehicles with manual transmissions have hydraulically assisted clutches, to make engaging the clutch easier (and also to extend the life of the clutch). But if the hydraulic circuit fails – which usually means a bad slave cylinder – it can make the car undriveable because it’s no longer possible to engage/disengage gears smoothly (or at all). And – here’s where it gets mean – replacing the slave cylinder can, in some cases, mean pulling the transmission.

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