Blog Entry #32 October 5, 2013 – To Lube or Not to Lube – Salida and Canon City, Colorado

OK, so I woke up early the morning of Saturday, October 5th in Salida, Colorado thinking “wouldn’t it be great if I could get the Jeep’s oil changed and chassis greased before we left for Denver this morning?”  I’m sure that others wake up Saturday mornings with the same thoughts – doesn’t everyone?  Seriously (and anything to do with the Jeep is SERIOUS), the original owners manual for the Jeep recommended oil & filter change and chassis lubrication every 1,000 miles.  I have rationalized that with modern metallurgy, advancements in lubricants, and the clean running environment provided by today’s road system – an oil (and filter) change interval of 3,000 miles and a chassis lube interval of 1,500 miles should be sufficient.

Bless me mechanic, for I have sinned – it has been 3,500 miles since my last oil change and 1,700 miles since my last chassis lubrication.  During that time I have traveled dusty, rut strewn roads and traversed two major mountain passes.  “Your penance is – change the oil & filter and lubricate the chassis (and a few Hail Marys couldn’t hurt)”.

So I did what I had done before with varying degrees of success along the Trek.  I called an auto parts store in Salida and asked for suggestions as to whom I might contact on a Saturday morning to have service our very special (to us anyway) 1950 Jeep.  Only one of the suggested sources of old car lube service was available.  After receiving a noncommittal response from the gentleman at the service station in a phone conversation, I agreed to bide my time until 11am (the earliest he could see me) and then headed down to his location.

Here is roughly how it went when I introduced myself and the Jeep to the two attendants at the service station:   (Please excuse my abuse of proper grammatical punctuation (as if you did not know this about me already).

Attendant #1: “going to be at least another 20 minutes – got something else that is going to need my attention before I can start on your Jeep”  I am wondering “why can’t you at least put the Jeep on the rack while you are waiting for that something else to start?”

“Besides” he says, “I have to let the engine cool down before I change the oil – don’t want to scald myself.”  I try to explain that one is supposed to change the oil while it is hot so that more debris is flushed out – and that I had barely gotten the engine warm making the 2 mile trip to their station.  The response was, “Don’t tell me how to do my job – I have been doing it this way for 5 years”.

Turns out, he did not need to do that something else and explained that he will have to be the one to drive the Jeep on to the rack.

I ask “Do you know how to drive a column shift 3-speed”.  “Sure, my dad had a (something or other) with column shift”.   Moments later I am standing beside the Jeep trying to figure out how, if necessary, I am going to keep it from careening through the back wall of the garage.  Then he says “something isn’t working right here – it will hardly move forward”.  “That’s because you have it in 3rd gear”.  “Oh yea” he says as he puts the shift lever in 2nd, and then Reverse.  I am thinking “Only one more position left and he will have it”.  He finally gets the Jeep on the rack and I try to explain to him where the grease fittings are (some are in unusual places and could easily be missed).  While we are “talking”, senior attendant #2 comes in and says that they must close the garage door – and that I am not permitted to be in the working area.  OK, I can understand all the liability stuff, but that does not permit me a way insure sure that the “5-year” veteran of automotive technology will know to grease the fittings on the rear outer wheel bearings, or properly install the cartridge oil filter.

I protest.  Senior attendant #2 “suggests” I take my Jeep and leave (at least, to my surprise, he lets me drive it off of the rack).  So thirty minutes later (it is almost noon and we have not begun our day’s journey to Denver), I am back at the motel trying to make light of a very frustrating and humiliating experience.

We finally began our journey from Salida to Denver by traveling through a very picturesque canyon along the course of the clear, fast flowing Virgin River.  I was having difficulty enjoying the trip.  First, I had not gotten over the humiliation of the service station episode, and secondly, I believed that after two very arduous traverses of mountain passes, a change of oil was really in order.

Anyway, we trudged on; or at least I did.  Justifiably, had I expressed the causes of my discomfort to Jean, she would have suggested I try to “get over it and we will see what we can do down the road”.

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Drive down the Virgin River Canyon between Salida, CO and Canon City, CO

Now, the happy ending:

An hour or so later we were passing through the moderate size town of Canon City, Colorado.  As we drove through town I kept my eyes open for any semblance of an appropriate service station.  Sure enough, across a set of railroad tracks appeared a non-franchise, down to earth auto repair garage.  It was hard to tell from our vantage point on the main street if they were open – this being Saturday.  Jean agreed that we should give it a shot; and in fact when we turned in their bay doors were open and people were milling about (what is “milling” anyway?).  The Jeep caught the eye of a couple of mechanics, so I went up to one of them and explained my desire to have the Jeep greased and its oil changed.  The answer was “no problem, we usually close at 1pm on Saturday” (this being 12:30pm), “but we will take care of it”.  When I explained that I would like to stay with the same brand and grade of oil that I had been using, the answer was, “sure, you go down the street and buy what you want us to use; besides, it will cost you less if you supply the oil”.  Well, I actually gave the guy a hug (after sizing him up as the huggable type) and procured the oil (I still had one sometimes hard to find oil filer left for this last oil change).

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Auto repair ship in Canon City, CO that provided great service

When we got back with the oil, they immediately had me drive the Jeep onto the rack and set to work.  The fellow doing the work, having previously had a car restoration business, was familiar with the maintenance of older cars.  He also allowed me to point out some of the less apparent grease fittings.  He wiped the grease fittings before greasing them and took great care in emptying and cleaning the oil filter housing before installing the new canister.  We were ready to go in 1/2 hour, and the price was embarrassingly low.

With my faith in personkind once more restored (I forget sometimes), and our Jeep happy; we set off once again for Denver.  It final leg of the trip to Denver was quite demanding.  Our approach was from the south by way of Colorado Springs.  We were confronted by 30+ mph headwinds for most of that leg.  This may not seem like a big deal to those driving low profile cars with 3 digit horsepower, but to us in a vehicle with lots of frontal area and 72 horsepower, high head-on winds significantly impact performance.  (This is one those rare cases where big frontal area adversely affects performance).  Anyway, the combination of high headwinds and fairly significant hills along that route had us taxing the Jeep’s engine quite severally in trying to keep up with traffic.  Both we and the Jeep were done in by the close of the day.  I was happy that she had fresh oil lubricating her moving parts.

When we got back with the oil, they immediately had me drive the Jeep onto the rack and set to work.  The fellow doing the work, having previously had a car restoration business, was familiar with the maintenance of older cars.  He also allowed me to point out some of the less apparent grease fittings.  He wiped the grease fittings before greasing them and took great care in emptying and cleaning the oil filter housing before installing the new canister.  We were ready to go in 1/2 hour, and the price was embarrassingly low.

With my faith in personkind once more restored (I forget sometimes), and our Jeep happy; we set off once again for Denver.  It final leg of the trip to Denver was quite demanding.  Our approach was from the south by way of Colorado Springs.  We were confronted by 30+ mph headwinds for most of that leg.  This may not seem like a big deal to those driving low profile cars with 3 digit horsepower, but to us in a vehicle with lots of frontal area and 72 horsepower, high head-on winds significantly impact performance.  (This is one those rare cases where big frontal area adversely affects performance).  Anyway, the combination of high headwinds and fairly significant hills along that route had us taxing the Jeep’s engine quite severally in trying to keep up with traffic.  Both we and the Jeep were done in by the close of the day.  I was happy that she had fresh oil lubricating her moving parts.


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