Q: I inherited a 2003 Final 500 Edition Oldsmobile Aurora with 58,000 miles and in pretty decent condition. It has only been driven about 300 miles in the last five years as it sat in a three-sided carport. I drive a late model SUV full time, but I'm thinking of using the Olds as a summer weekend sedan. I have a trusted mechanic and am wondering what type of things I should have him check out to insure its reliable roadworthiness. Fluids, belts, hoses, belts, brake lines, etc. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. My father was the original owner and there is some sentimental value attached.
A: Your Tech should have no problem with any of this, but I'll chip in as if this potential classic were mine.
I'd approach this from three angles: first, a comprehensive used vehicle inspection in order to establish a baseline for needed service and repairs; second, bringing maintenance up to date and mileage; and, finally, addressing possible issues related to long-term storage.
With 58,000 miles on the clock, the Olds should be in pretty good mechanical condition, with the possible exception of the battery, brake wear and rotor rust, and belts and hoses. A 60,000 service would take care of needed fluid and maintenance needs.
As to storage issues, I'd certainly flush and renew brake fluid, remove and replace as much fuel as possible (gas goes stale over time), and check all four tires for their date code. This is a four-digit number embossed on the sidewall, the final four digits of the tire information number. Look for the abbreviation "DOT" (Department of Transportation). Following this will be four characters; keep going to the right to an oval shaped area with bullets at each end. The date code is the final four digits of this sequence. For example 4304 would mean the tire was manufactured in the 43rd week of 2004. It's recommended to discard tires more than 10 years old. If the carport offered shade for the tires I might be tempted to stretch this a bit, if they look great otherwise.
Adding a bottle of Techron or similar fuel system cleaner will help to diminish fuel system deposits. I'd run a half tank of fuel through and refill to remove/dilute any remaining stale fuel before taking any trips or strong hill climbs. And if you'll be storing the car during the off-season, how about hooking up a battery tender and giving the fuel a dose of Sta-Bil?
I have probably over-killed on things a bit, but the idea is to be able to truly enjoy your father's Oldsmobile -- a dark cherry beauty -- one of the final cars of a 35 million vehicle run!
Q: I saw your response in the paper to a person who was having problems with mice under the hood of their car. I had this problem and set rat and mouse traps under the car and caught critters every few days. Someone told me to place a light under the car on a timer so it would be on at night. I have not caught a critter in two years. This solved my problem, so I hope is of help to you.
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Thanks Wes! Perhaps a 120V corded, waterproof LED worklight.
Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org; he cannot make personal replies.
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