TRUCK TIPS: How I Keep Vehicles Going for Years

steve maxwell's ford f-150 truck carrying logs

Some people manage vehicles like tubes of caulking – use them up and throw them away. Not me. I aim for a long haul relationship with my wheels because it’s cheaper and just plain fun. When you’ve been with a vehicle for 10, 20 or 30 years through thick and thin, you have a connection that never happens with new vehicles. If you’re willing to trade the panache of a new vehicle for cash in your pocket,  then long haul ownership is the way to go. I’m cheap and I’ve crunched the numbers. I know this approach works because I’ve driven the talk for more than 25 years.

My Ford F-150: 25+ Years of Faithful Service Costs $80/Month

On average I’ve spent less than $1000 a year repairing and maintaining my 1990 Ford F150 4WD truck in top shape since buying it in mint condition in 1998, including a new paint job a few years ago. Some years more, some years less. This works out to “payments” of about $80 per month. Compare this to financing a new vehicle, and  it’s way, way less. Why is it that people think nothing of dropping $500 to $600 a month on new vehicle payments for years on end, yet if they had to pay half that each month for repairs, they’d figure they were driving a lemon? I don’t understand, but I suspect it’s a way of justifying the high cost of the glitz that a new vehicle brings.  And while glitz feels good for some, do you really need it?

Here are my 5 best truck maintenance tips after 25+ years of faithful service from my Ford F-150 . . .

Truck Maintenance Tip #1 – Prevent Rust with an Oil-Type Spray Annually

steve maxwell maintains his ford f-150 with rust prevention sprayThis is an absolutely vital no-brainer, but it hardly anyone ever does this for their vehicles.  I’m not talking about undercoating, but an oil-type treatment applied underneath and inside all body parts. I favour Krown Rust Control because it’s got a long track record and continues to creep slowly into every nook and cranny. RustCheck is another brand I like. Ford trucks like mine were never known for rust resistance (especially around the rear fenders), yet when I had mine repainted in 2010 there wasn’t a single spec of rust anywhere – and we’ve got plenty of winter and salty roads where I live. If the body and frame goes bad, there’s no way a long haul maintenance strategy makes sense. That’s why annual rust prevention is key.

Truck Maintenance Tip #2 – Extend the Life of Seats by Using Seat Covers

steve maxwell recommends using replaceable seat covers for truck maintenanceThis sounds simple, but it makes all the difference. Seat covers take the wear that would otherwise tear work truck seats to shreds, and they can be removed and washed. I’m on my fourth set of seat covers since buying the truck in 1998. I don’t baby the vehicle, yet the seats under the covers are in mint condition.

Truck Maintenance Tip #3 – Extend the Life of Galvinized Mufflers by Drilling Holes

Corrosion of exhaust systems isn’t an issue when they’re made of stainless steel, but you can extend the working life of galvanized mufflers and pipes by drilling a 1/8” diameter drainage hole or two in the lowest part of the system. Condensed exhaust moisture is highly acidic, and eats steel fast if it’s allowed to pool internally. Before discovering this trick I’d get two or three years from an exhaust system. Two small drainage holes drilled when my current galvanized system was new has kept things quiet and solid. The last time I had to repair exhaust rust was 15 years ago. I just sprung a leak up near the manifold, but that’s still pretty good.

steve maxwell extends the life in his ford f-150 truck muffler by drilling holes

Truck Maintenance Tip #4 – Replace Parts Before They Break

Reliability is vital in a work pickup truck, and that’s why it makes sense to change key components before they break. Starter motors, batteries, brake lines, motor mounts, belts, hoses and filters are all things that are cheap to replace pro-actively  before they turn into an expensive, schedule-busting break-down. Spend a little now, get a lot later.

Truck Maintenance Tip #5 – Extend Transmission Life by Changing Fluids and Filters Regularly

Transmissions made up to about the mid-1980s would operate happily for hundreds of thousands of miles without the need to change fluid, but things are different now. Changing tranny fluid and filter every 100,000 km is an essential maintenance feature because transmissions are built differently these days. Without fresh fluid, they’ll burn out and hit you with a big and avoidable repair bill.

I admit that if everyone adopted my kind of vehicle-management habits, it wouldn’t be good for the auto industry. But still, I enjoy keeping old vehicles in good condition and pocketing the savings. It’s kind of funny, too. The older my F-150 gets, the more compliments I get on it from  truck gets would look a lot different than it does. That said, if you’re thinking that maybe you don’t need to spend as much as you do on a work truck, you may just be right.

Posted on September 15th, 2017

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