Ladies, It's Time to Winterize
Yeoldfurt and I have a geriatric fleet decorating our driveway. The odometers on our three vehicles are all well past the 100,000 mile mark and one of them is well over 200,000. Maintenance is important with any vehicle but with older vehicles, it's critical. Two drivers with three vehicles might seem like overkill to some but there's a method to this madness. The big truck, a 2001 F250, is the only one of the three that can pull the stock trailer. When you have livestock, that kind of truck is a necessity. But that diesel engine gets lousy mileage even on the highway, and diesel is $3.75/gallon these days. So other than a short trip to town once a week to keep the juices flowing, we only drive the big truck when we need to pull the trailer.
Diesel powered vehicles are cold sensitive and require a little extra attention when winter rolls around. A fuel additive such as "Amsoil" helps, but it takes a little discipline to keep the ratio right. An optimal 8 ounces of additive for every 25 gallons of fuel is hard to regulate unless you run the tank down before you refuel each time. If you are in the habit of topping off your tank every time it gets down to about half, the ratio gets out of whack pretty fast, potentially causing other problems. So even if that's your normal routine in summer months so you never get caught with an empty tank, it would be better in winter to run the tank down to at least the last quarter before using more additive.
Diesels have two big batteries under the hood and painful as it is, it's probably best to replace them at the same time. One may crap out before the other, but batteries almost never crap out overnight. They weaken over time and as the one battery has been getting weaker and weaker, more strain has been put on the other battery so it's far from equal to the new one you just put next to it. I'm sure I'm on the minority side of that opinion but I'd rather be safe than sorry. A lot depends on how far you drive, how remote your route is and what your options are going to be if you get stranded away from home because the batteries are too weak to start the truck.
One thing you can do to take care of the batteries you have is to use your plug in. Every diesel I've ever owned or known of has had an electrical plug tucked down inside the front grill. The cord runs to a heater on the block of the engine. The block heater provides just enough warmth to keep the fuel from gelling which makes starting so much easier in the morning. You can start it while it's plugged in, but as a safety measure, I always unplug before I start the engine ...cuts down on the risk of driving off while still attached to the garage by the electrical cord. I've seen it happen, though not to me or my truck ...thank goodness. But I decided then and there I was going to take measures to ensure it didn't happen to me.
Check the tire pressure when the temperatures drop too. Tires that looked okay yesterday afternoon when it was in the 70's might look a little on the under-inflated side today when the high was only in the 50's. A vehicle with over or under-inflated tires is far from safe on slick winter roads, so check your pressures when the seasons change and adjust them according to the PSI embossed on the sidewall of the tire. We keep a cheap manual tire gauge in every glove box of every vehicle we own. You're not always going to be at gas station when you think you have a tire pressure problem and I've never trusted the gauges at the 25-cents-for-air stations anyway.
Check your fluids, ladies. It's not rocket science. The reservoirs are marked with a minimum fill line. If they're low or the fluid looks dirty, change it or take it to someone to have it changed. Even your windshield wiper fluid should be topped off before winter. If it's already raining outside, you might need to wash your windows to be able to see the road. Ever had a big 18 wheeler blow by in the lane next to you and spatter mud and sludge all over your windshield? Your wipers won't make much difference without a little boost from washer fluid.
We had our first real norther blow through last Sunday. I guess that's what got me on this subject. The skies were clear and blue but there were gusts of icy wind that felt they went right through your clothes. The horses were all frisky and the chickens only wanted to venture from the coop for a few minutes at a time. While I was out taking care of the animals, I decided to do a little winterizing on the two vehicles that were still in the driveway.