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November 21st, 1999 Article
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A few more tips for the do it yourself group.

1. Checking belts and hoses: Knowing how to be able to check accessory drive belts and cooling system. Hoses can save you becoming one of those people that you see standing by the side of the road with steam coming out all over. V-type belts can be checked by looking for fraying on the top edges and naturally, looking for cracking on the bottom side. However, you cannot see the whole belt at any one time so you will have to turn the engine over repeatedly in order to check the whole belt. I have always used a quick method of just looking at the top of the belt as it sits in one of the pulleys. If the top of the belt has a CONCAVE appearance, the belt is getting weak and due for replacement. Serpentine belts require a very close inspection as some CRACKING is considered normal. However, look at the edges for signs of fraying and top surface cracking. IF YOU ARE NOT SURE, CHANGE IT ANYWAY. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Also, every time a serpentine belt is changed, don't forget to check the tensioner and idler pulleys. These things have bearings that wear out and when they go, it is never nice.

Hoses should be checked by feeling along the ENTIRE length of the hose, try and find any soft spots, as there are likely weak areas. Also check for signs of bulging near the connectors, as well as bulging caused by corrosion building up under the hose. Most clamp type hose connections will have a slight bulge by the clamp because the fitting the hose goes onto has a lip on the edge. However, a bulge of more than twice the thickness of the rubber used it the hose, (About a quarter of an inch.) can be a problem. IF IN DOUBT, CHANGE THEM. Hoses are cheaper than breakdowns. When checking hoses, don't forget the little ones that go to the windshield washers, they get old and break too.

2. Tires: These things seem to be one of the most IGNORED items I see on vehicles and it is largely because many people fail to understand their importance. Think about it. Walk out and take a REAL CLOSE look at how much of the tire is in contact with the ground. That LITLE bit of contact area is all you have to control and stop your vehicle. I prefer to have the BEST control and stopping ability I can get and that is why I pay more attention to my tires than most people.

All tires are made with a specific tread depth and there are even TREAD WEAR GAUGES available that will show you how much tread is left. However, in order to measure the tires correctly, you will need the specifications from the manufacturer of the tire. MOST tires have a WEAR BAR built into the tread of the tire and these show up as little bars ACROSS the tread. If you can see that these bars are showing the same as the tread, THE TIRE IS WORN OUT AND SHOULD BE REPLACED. A tire should have even wear across the whole surface of the tire and if the wear bars are showing in ANY place on the tread, THE TIRE IS WORN OUT.

I have seen many people that think a tire is still good as long as it has some tread in the center and worn on the edges only. This is TOTALLY WRONG. A tire that is worn out on the edges, is a tire that IS WORN OUT and not SAFE to use.

When looking at your tires, also look for any signs of cracking on the sidewall. Also look for any small cuts that can be caused by hitting curbs etc. ANY damage on the sidewall where you can see the material used for the cords makes the tire unsafe for use.

Just a little extra note: NEVER HAVE A REPAIRED TIRE ON THE STEERING AXLE OF A VEHICLE. Repaired tires blowing out, causing a loss of steering control cause many accidents.

More next week.

"TOOT" Rick "The Wrench" - November 21st, 1999
Copyright of Rick The Wrench, 1999

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