Keeping the car running well

I recently had the wheel bearings replaced on my Explorer.  One set had gone bad–as in wheel was about to fall off bad–and the others were on their last legs.  The price was so low I merely screamed (one arm, one leg, two extra fingers).  Because of the cost of that, I’ve been doing some other required maintenance on my own to save a few shekels.

The first thing was new spark plugs. It had gotten a bit cranky on starting–sometimes requiring two or three tries to get it to fire up. However, once I thought about it, I realized I was still running on the original plugs–190,000 miles in service on the original plugs. I checked videos on spark plug replacement on the Explorer (what used to be utterly routine engine work is complicated these days because of all the other crap under the hood. The things you have to remove or work around to get access is…challenging. After viewing the videos I decided to ask the shop where I had the bearings done for an estimate to have them do a tune up–yes, access to the plugs looked that bad. I really didn’t want to do it myself.  However that number they quoted? Uh, no. So I bit the bullet and bought a new set of plugs and wires to do the job myself.

Turns out replacing the plugs weren’t as bad as I expected from the video. A couple of extensions and a u-joint for my ratchet drive and a 5/8″ spark plug socket (tools I already had) and I was good to go. It took time, but I got there.

The old plugs were in reasonably good shape. No carbon or oil fouling. Neither “hot” or “cold”. This suggests the internals of the engine are still in good shape. The plugs were just worn–gap had increased from the spec of 0.054″ to about 0.09″.

What I did not do this time around is replace the plug wires. That _is_ going to be a more complicated procedure. Looks like, at least, I’ll have to remove the alternator to get access.

The two things left from a complete “tune up” are an oil change–which isn’t quite due yet–and a fuel filter change. That’s another one that looks to be more of a production, particularly since there appears to be a special tool needed to release the fuel line from the filter.  The quick disconnect tool isn’t expensive it’s just–I hope to get another hundred thousand miles or so out of this car so I’ll probably only use that tool once and then I’ll be on to something that doesn’t use it.  It’s the principle of the thing, you know?

Still, after running some errands as a test drive, I found the hard-starting was gone and I think I’m getting a bit better gas mileage.  So I call that a win.


2 thoughts on “Keeping the car running well”

  1. Do you use a fluids analyzing company called Blackstone? My husband sends samples before each oil change on all of our vehicles so he knows their engine status. They’re a big corporation but the reports you receive are so personalized you would swear they are a mom and pop shop. We have a classic Mustang and their service has saved us a lot of money by pointing out trends so we can get ahead of any potential damage. It’s cheap insurance.


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