"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My truck is gettin' old, and expensive

My  old 1944 truck has more than 200,000 miles on it, I'm guessing since the speedometer doesn't work anymore.
My old truck
For years, all I had to do was fill it up with gas,  change the oil every 2,000 miles, and it ran smoothly. Maintenance was limited to buying new tires, and an occasional muffler, windshield wipers, battery, and such like. It always started immediately, ran smoothly, got great gas mileage with good get up and go. Wasn't fancy, but solid, dependable. Sure it eventually lost its shine and newness, but I never had to take it to a mechanic.
I just figured it would always be that way even though it had depreciated out long ago.
Then it seemed just overnight, things started going wrong. At first, some little things were barely noticeable and annoying , but then they got more serious to where I'm always aware it's past its prime and aging fast. When you're around something a long time, you don't see gradual changes. 
first noticed some fading and a little rust on top of the cab. Some of the paint elsewhere started to fade, and rust spots appeared. Then the seat cushions lost their bounce and seemed to sag, with a tear or blemish every once in a while. The headliner drooped. The tailgate would often jar loose. There were coffee stains everywhere. 
"Sometimes it seems like it's gasping for breath." 
It's had a couple of fender benders, and has the scars to show for it. The hood and grill and front end has dents and gouges. The grill no longer shines and seems to be getting yellow. The dashboard is pealing, getting thinner, and has some cracks in it. The headlights are getting dimmer and needing changing more often. The horn doesn't sound as loud, and the air and oil filters don't last as long. Sometimes it seems like it's gasping for breath.
Then some of the mechanical stuff showed its age. In cold weather, it didn't always want to start. The thermostat, and thus the heater, wouldn't always work.  It doesn't have a built in air-conditioner, which is why I like to travel with both windows open, and a cool jug of water.
While the motor seems solid,  it just doesn't run as smoothly, it sputters some  and doesn't have the spunky get up and go it once had. It takes more time to go up hill, and waffles a bit when coasting downhill. On a rough road, or a smooth one for that matter, the springs and shocks don't cushion anything. Everything rattles and shakes. The exhaust gets noisier and drips water some days.  The brakes are more likely to fail.
Every once in a while it gets bad gas..."
Every once in a while it gets bad gas, and will barely run, preferring to stay in the garage. 
It doesn't steer as well, and gets harder to turn, especially quickly. Then the radiator started leaking, and the oil pressure is often out of whack on the one gauge that still works. There are more stains on the pavement underneath where it parks overnight. The transmission takes more time shifting, sometimes with a noticeable "sigh." On occasion while driving it, I felt one or two of the cylinders hesitate, or cut out. That's scary at 60 miles an hour, but  it almost can't go that fast anymore. Yeah, new spark plugs and wiring worked, for a while. Some of the wheels may be out of line, and there are a couple of lug nuts missing.
Lots of these things require trips to mechanics, and you can't just go to a "shade-tree" mechanic any more. Different ailments take specialists with fancy equipment.
This month for instance, I poured more money into  the old thing than it originally cost. New joints are probably in the future. So too may be some work on the motor, carburetor and some of the electrical stuff that keeps it all going.  
Some I will have to pay for, and others I just will say "I'll put up with it." Body shop work is too expensive, and so is getting rid of most of the blemishes, scars, dents and rust on the outside.
"Coffee with Clark" 7 by 3.5

About the only "cosmetic" thing I've done to it was change the rear end. Several years ago, I got tired of the long narrow rotting wood bed, and replaced it with a short wide one, which is now rusting.
It ain't as comfortable and neat as it used to be, but it's got character. I've grown attached to it because of the memories all the places we've been together and the people it took me to, or who traveled in it.  I know, it doesn't look like much, but some people always notice a rickety old antique.  Trade in is out of the question. I'll drive it till it quits.
At least the motor hasn't seized up. Yet.

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