Towing with your older vehicle

Discussion in 'Tow Vehicles, Hitch & Towing' started by JunieB, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. JunieB

    JunieB Active Member

    May 8, 2018
    Central Florida
    I have noticed a number towing on here with vehicles in their signatures that are no "spring chickens." By older, I mean at least 11-12 years old, or older. I don't run in the crowd that trades in vehicles every 4-7 years.
    What special care do you take of your older TV? Beyond religious oil change intervals, what are the most important fluids, hoses, and such to watch? Do you prefer the "oldies but goodies"?
    I had some pretty major brake work done on the '02 recently but wonder what else to watch out for next.
  2. Ductape

    Ductape Well-Known Member

    Jun 12, 2013
    I tow with an 18 year old truck. I'm mechanically inclined so I do my own maintenance and repairs. I consider myself 'intimate' with my truck(s), so I know when parts have been replaced, and when something might be due to be replaced. I also have an aftermarket monitor panel and a tablet running the Torque app keeping an eye on things. This lets me see a potential problem long before I'm stranded on the side of the road (hopefully). As an example, last year before we headed to the Vermont rally, I noticed my alternator wasn't always putting out the voltage I expected. I ordered a new alternator and brought it with me to Vermont. Fortunately, I didn't have to swap alternators on the side of the road, but I could have since I also carry a bag of basic tools with me. I did change the alternator the week after the rally.

    I think with older vehicles, you need to know your vehicle well. If not, you'd better have a mechanic you trust. Keeping up with maintenance is a given.
    shuang2 likes this.
  3. JunieB

    JunieB Active Member

    May 8, 2018
    Central Florida
    Ah, yes I was thinking about getting a ScanGauge II or similar, recently. Another tempting gearhead item-- but if it's worth it! Sounds like you think a monitor is worth the $$. I know when everything has been replaced in the past. Stuck pretty close on the maintenance schedule too. I doubt I would want to do something like replace the water pump on my own, though.
  4. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2017
    Maplewood, MN
    I have a newer vehicle now, but I always followed some simple guidelines:

    Don't ask your vehicle to do something it shouldn't be doing.
    Change fluids (oil, radiator, transmission) on schedule and lube everything that requires it.
    Keep up on maintenance (brakes, plugs, tires, filters, battery).
    Don't ignore the little things that breakdown. Once you start ignoring the little things, they start getting bigger and more expensive.
    Katskamper and ezakoske like this.
  5. nineoaks2004

    nineoaks2004 Every meal is a picnic and every Day is a holiday

    Oct 15, 2006
    Graceville, Florida
    I tow with a 2004 Ford F 150 w tow package and v-8 eng., I do all my own maint. and most repairs.
    I love the truck and will keep it until it falls apart.
  6. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

    Jul 30, 2008
    I tow with a 41 year old, 29 year old, and 24 year old. I do my own maintenance and most all of my repairs. I would drive any of them coast to coast with no worries.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
    Katskamper likes this.
  7. Ductape

    Ductape Well-Known Member

    Jun 12, 2013
    I really like the tablet running the Torque app. I use a cheap 7" tablet, a $15ish dollar Bluetooth dongle, and the Torque app was $5. It's amazing what that will monitor.
  8. Sneezer

    Sneezer Well-Known Member

    Aug 8, 2015
    DFW, TX
    I second the Torque app and a Bluetooth dongle. I currently just have the app on my phone though, but it has come in pretty handy. Way cheaper than a dedicated scantool although I don't think it will do a lot of tests, just monitoring. On my older Actron unit I could go in and actuate various sensors and solenoids to test their function, but Torque appears to only support basic emission sensor self checks, and then monitoring and error code resetting. I admit that I haven't really dived into it much yet though, as it was a very recent addition to my kit this month.
  9. neighbormike

    neighbormike Well-Known Member

    Oct 6, 2012
    Please keep your dongles to yourselves! (Yes, I admit, I have no idea what that is)

    Edit: I Googled "dongle". I think I have a new world to hate.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
    xxxapache likes this.
  10. Ductape

    Ductape Well-Known Member

    Jun 12, 2013
  11. Haybale

    Haybale I'd rather be camping!!

    Aug 22, 2013
    San Diego via MN
    The dongles (wifi and blu-tooth) don't work on my 97...

    I am similar as some mentioned above. But with a twist I will get to.

    I know my car inside and out, I do all my own maintenance (everything but alignments and mounting/balancing tires) and repairs. My car has 284,000 miles (bought at 239,000) and swapped the motor at 245,000 miles (donor car was my previous TV that was hit head on and run over by a drunk) the donor car had 190,272 miles when it was totaled (owned since 97,000 miles) so I have a total of about 130,000 miles on basically the same car (1 year different). I know most of the noises when they are failing, or I get a little less mileage per tank, feels a little sluggish, or stopping is quite right, I know it address it. And have towed 26,000 miles to date!

    The car is a 1997 Saturn SL2 5 speed, everything works as it should from factory other than the rear defrost (I don't care) and the key present switch in the ignition (I don't care either). I get 40+ mpg highway, 24 to 32 mpg towing. And it will chirp the tires shifting into 2nd and 3rd. The clutch and flywheel were new when I swapped motors so they were recently replaced before I bought the car for $800!!

    The real big difference for me is almost every part I have replaced since 2010 has a lifetime warranty at the parts store. Example: I went to adjust and clean the rear drum breaks before a trip to the mountains and the shoes were a bit worn down. So I pull them, hope on my bike and head to the parts store and get a brand new set in minutes for FREE. Get home clean everything up, some grease here, sand there, and spray here. and I am done. Maybe 2 hours from jacking up to completely done for the cost of 1 can of brake cleaner, $3.50.

    Then on the test drive the fronts started to make noise, so I grab an old set of pads and swap them at the parts store for a free set under the warranty (the 4th set, paid $25 8 years ago), swapped them out Sunday, again for the cost of 1 can of brake cleaner!

    Many other parts such as the CV axles, radiator, thermostat, motor mounts, water pump, starter, alternator, and many more.

    In college there was a project to figure out how much you spend per mile on your car for a year. Take basic info like insurance, registration, payment, oil change cost, tires (a % per miles driven by the life of the tire 60k or so), average MPG, and other maintenance and repairs estimated.

    The instructor asked for each persons price per mile and then called us in order from the most to the least, here is an example:

    I don't remember the exact numbers but the worst was a guy on a very high interest loan, bad driving record, huge SUV, on a lift and big tires, young ~23-4, and he was at almost $2/miles as he didn't drive much.

    Then many people in the middle were mostly in the $1 to $1.50 per mile.

    There were a few in the $0.50 to $1 per mile.

    Then the instructor talked a bit about how flashy and new is has a cost and went on a tangent (turned out he had an old Cavalier with a lot of miles), then he called me up.

    I did not say my $ per mile. I said I pay $372/yr for full coverage auto insurance (includes a rental vehicle, road side service, $0 deductible for glass, ect). An oil change costs me about $12 (I buy oil/filters in bulk). Talked about the lifetime warranty parts. Registration is about $120/yr. And continued to say how cheap I drive, and I drive about 20- 25k miles a year, including a 5,000 mile road trip most summers. and so on. I pulled up the work sheet and had a few other charts and graphs.

    I was under $0.10 per mile in my beater.

    So many people in the class were dumbfounded at how cheap I drive. I said I don't care if it is new and polished up, or how old it is. It is reliable and cheap. Ding the door, I don't care, hit road debris, oh well.

    I take pride in high miles, not a high price tag like so many today.

    My neighbor can go get a big fancy new truck, RV, or whatever, I wont compete with the Johnsons, Unless it is a cheapass like me wanting to get to 500,000 miles on an economy car.

    Heck I bet my Saturn has been offroad more than most 4x4's in CA!!!

    That was a bit winded, but I have a passion for fixing things and keeping things going.
    kcsa75 and hayyward like this.
  12. Haybale

    Haybale I'd rather be camping!!

    Aug 22, 2013
    San Diego via MN
    To answer your question.

    I keep many spar parts in my car. New belts/hoses every 5 years (or so) and the old ones that were still 'good' stay in the tool box/trunk.

    Changing oil is cheaper than a motor. I change every 3k miles with the cheapest 10w30 oil I can find, which is usually walmart or home depot $9 for a 5qt jug. Filters I get at the parts store for $20 for a case of 12 WIX brand white filters (what most shops buy) and a longer filter so it hold more oil and had about 30% more filtering media.

    I flush the radiator every 3 years or so. I will pull the thermostat and run CLR through the system for a bit and then flush it a few times and fill with regular green coolant and add water wetter and extra rust inhibitors.

    I spray all bushings with a penetrating oil a few times a year, including suspension and steering components, to prevents them wearing out and keeps them from drying out.

    I run diesel oil, rotella, a few times a year also. I add MMO to the oil and the fuel often. Also seafoam goes in the oil/fuel a few times a year.

    At least once a year I replace the spark plugs and do an MMO soak (pour MMO into the cylinders to clean the rings out) and do a compression test. And my motor has 230k miles or so and the compression is 197 to 203psi, stock is supposed to be +/-20 from 200 and 5psi from each cylinder. Motors well taken care of wont wear much and will last a very long time.

    The MMO in the fuel will lube the fuel pump and help clear debris or any build up.

    When I first buy a vehicle I run a lot (like 10x recommended MMO and Seafoam in the fuel and oil) then replace all filters (oil/fuel) and monitor the oil.

    I also lube all hinges and door locks, window slides, and just about anything else I can oil/lube to keep it functioning properly.

    I could write all night on how I keep things going forever!!!
    kcsa75 and hayyward like this.
  13. hayyward

    hayyward Active Member

    Sep 16, 2006
    I admire you mechanically gifted people. I put on a lot of miles, 70 each day just for work and most of our camping trips are to the BWCAW area, 500 miles round trip. An older vehicle with low mileage will last me as long as a newer vehicle with low mileage so why would I pay more? I'll fully consume the vehicle either way. My current 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited just broke 200k miles and it's got some old age issues (although it does have new struts and shocks and $$etc$$ - death wobble, but that's a different story!). It went on its last camping trip in September. Breaking down on the road on the way to or from work is one thing, breaking down far from home while towing a camper is an entirely different deal. It's time for a replacement.
  14. Balthisar

    Balthisar Active Member

    Jun 26, 2018
    Plymouth, MI USA
    I simply don't put a lot of miles on my TV, and keep up on maintenance. It pulls my pup, or I use it to commute when my wife wants to use the main car, which isn’t very often. When she’s ready to work again (she’s a stay at home mom for the moment), we’ll get her a car. I’ll use it a couple of times per year when I know I have to go to work earlier than the snow plow drivers.

    It’s a 2004 model year with only 105,000 miles on it.

    Still, things age despite the mileage. I'm lucky enough that I have resources to deal with issues on the road. In early October, for example, I lost the alternator enroute to my campground. It meant staying at another campground until the shops opened on Monday. You don’t have to be lucky, though. Just make sure you have an emergency fund.
  15. 1380ken

    1380ken Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2013
    I think that you are rolling the dice after any vehicle has over 200,000 miles. Engines don't last forever even if you change the oil every week. After 200,000 miles you are running on luck,. The engine could go another 100,000 or die tomorrow.
    shuang2 and hayyward like this.
  16. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

    Oct 10, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    My 4 runner is my daily driver. It currently has 160k miles on it, but considering it has been good to me. About time, as this is the first vehical I've owned that actually made it past 100k miles. Before any big or long road trip I bring it in to the shop to get it looked over to give me the piece of mind it's still going as well as I think. I've had to replace the catalytic converter and the JV boots. Belts have all been replaced Then of course your normal wear and tear stuff, but I wouldn't hesitate to use it. Now I may not want to go cross country with it for fear I'm going to need to find a machanic half way across the country. When I went to Maine I had to find a machanic on the way home. Going up I had no problem but when I took a side trip to New Hampsire my car stalled a couple times. It always started without a problem but chose not to drive up mount Washington with it and made it all the way to Maryland when the car was showing another symptom and I didn't risk it. Turned out the hose from the transmission line was cracked. So not enough fluid was making it in the transmission. That was a wake up call that I may not be able to do those long trips without a hefty Emergancy cash.
    shuang2 likes this.
  17. Spridle

    Spridle Member

    Jun 6, 2011
    Tablet and app is great. I also have the towing rider on both the TV and the trailer and AAA Premier RV to help get us home and to pay for trip interruption. I may drop the RV this year though. My towing coverage through the car insurance is $4/year and was more useful than AAA was. What I do like about Premier is the built in $1,500 trip interruption for hotels and food.
    hayyward likes this.
  18. JunieB

    JunieB Active Member

    May 8, 2018
    Central Florida
    Now there you go! I think I would be careful about any pressure to "flush" the radiator if it has been a while. I wouldnt want to blow any micro-holes into something bigger. Definitely keeping your coolant fresh and replaced periodically is a good idea.
    Now, if I could just find an online diagram of where all the "bushings" are, then that is something your typical oil change shop won't do. No puns, please.
    Plus checking the hoses. For those of us in warmer climates, heat is MURDER on rubberized components here. And any volatile (able to evaporate) compounds and fluids.
  19. emoney

    emoney Well-Known Member

    Jul 7, 2018
    It used to be the most often overlooked parts were the Shock/Springs/Struts. Pretty key to towing, and can't
    make the difference between comfortable and white knuckle.
    shuang2 and Spridle like this.
  20. JunieB

    JunieB Active Member

    May 8, 2018
    Central Florida
    My Acura (just a glorified Honda) has 237,000 miles on original engine. Starts right up smooth. The transmission was replaced at 110,000 miles at dealer, so I technically have a 137,000 transmission.
    From time to time something like an "EGR" valves or such will go bad. New Brake master cylinder less than 10K ago. Did the timing belt at 100,000 on schedule, now it definitely time to do it again along with the water pump! I only use OEM parts and have personally had this buggy since it had 5,000 miles on it at less than a year old.
    Took it on one 3,000 mile RT back in April, it did fine. Struts were all replaced once but it's feeling a little "bouncy" again.
    I can't think of any car since the late 80s that I let go with less than 150,000 miles on it. The dealer himself has said-- eh we see these with 300,000 miles on them fairly often.

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