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In-Situ Step 1: Vehicle Maintenance (Part 1)

It's almost time to go on your first shopping trip! But what will go on your shopping list? The list detailed below is my standard first time shopping list. I modify it based on the car and the quality of the parts, but this is a good starting point as it covers most all of the basics that will help you ensure that the car is working to it's best based on the state that it is in. This is also a good list to start from when going through any used car purchase.

Shopping List

  • Motor Oil (whatever amount and type the vehicle takes)
  • Oil Filter (if the vehicle was equipped with one)
  • Spark Plugs
  • Spark Plug Wires
  • Distributor Cap
  • Rotor (part of the distributor)
  • Points (if it's a points based distributor)
  • Condensor
  • Ignition Coil
  • Battery
  • Transmission Fluid (in many old cars this is a type of oil)
  • Differential Fluid (in many old cars this is a type of oil)
  • Brake Fluid
  • Fuel Injector or Carbeuretor cleaner
  • Coolant (1/2 the vehicle's capacity)
  • Distilled water (1/2 the vehicle's coolant capacity)
  • Grease (Used in a grease gun)

So, if the shopping list hasn't made our plan clear, what we will be doing is a front to back maintenance of the vehicle paying particular attention to the liquids in the vehicle. Now, if you're a complete newbie to working on cars, you will also need some basic tools. With In-Situ work, it's always best to make sure you have everything necessary for a unit of work before you start. Extra runs to the hardware or auto store eat into time, and if this is your only car, can be hard to do.

Tools List

  • Socket wrench set
  • Hand wrenches (Spanners)
  • Screwdriver set
  • Oil Filter Wrench (this may be car specific)
  • Oil Drain Pan
  • Coolant Drain Pan
  • Funnel
  • Floor Jack
  • Transmission Funnel / Filler
  • Grease Gun
  • A box of blue shop towels

A note on tools. If you need a tool, always buy the best one you can afford, especially basic tools like socket wrenches, spanners, and screwdrivers. That cheap set available at Harbor Freight (or similar store) may be enticing, but there's nothing worse than busting a tool halfway through a job. In addition, look for tools with lifetime warranties. For example, I have a socket wrench set with a lifetime (no questions asked) warranty from Ace Hardware. Over the years I've broken, destroyed, etc, at least half of the set and been able to get them all replaced for free.

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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

All references to They Might Be Giants are fan references only. John & John I hope you don't mind! And if you're ever in Phoenix stop by for a visit!

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