From my Minnesota perspective on top of about three feet of snow, it is difficult to think that spring is here, but according to the sun, the calendar, and the very cold Robins on top of the same snow drifts, it is. And when spring occurs (in the northern half of the Nation, at least, shades of olive drab begin to peek out. You probably have some sort of routine to reawaken your historic military vehicle from its winter hibernation, but just in case, I am offering a few tips to consider before rolling out on the road for another season.
TEN TIPS BEFORE YOU ROLL
Before you drive your vehicle on the first beautiful spring day, you should do a bit of preparation. After all, you want that drive (and all the subsequent of the season) to go as smoothly as possible. Some of these tips may be obvious, but you never know when your partner will say, “Hey—Let’s take the Jeep (truck, half-track, tank, etc.) out for an ice cream run!” When you get that sort of buy-in from your spouse, your vehicle had better be ready for you to step on the starter!
When you uncover or dust off your vehicle, consider these steps:
- Change the oil. I am a believer in “you can never change the oil too often.” Even if you changed it last year before you put your truck away, moisture can build up from freezing and thawing. Oil is cheaper than a broken engine, so I always recommend a spring oil change.
- Do a once-over check of belts and hoses. Squeeze them, pull on them: make sure there are no cracks, bulges, leaks, or fraying. If you discover any anomalies, take the time to change it. The upcoming temperature changes of the season will exaggerate any problems, possibly leaving you on the side of the road.
- Inspect your tires. Check the pressure, even if they “look okay.” This is a good time to run your hand over them too: Any cracks or flat spots? No one likes it, but there does come a time when you need to replace the rubber — after all, your tires are the only thing touching the ground when you are in the truck. Don’t sacrifice safety just to save a few bucks.
- Inspect your battery. On this first fling of spring, you will probably be reinstalling or reconnecting your battery. Clean the posts and the cable ends with a wire brush and good paste of baking soda and water. Rinse and dry before reconnecting.
- Check your radiator. Make sure it is full. At this point, get down on the ground with a flashlight and check the floor for any signs of leaks. They may not need immediate attention, but you want to be aware of what is going on and what you want to repair during the warmer months of the year.
- Do a rodent check. Look under the hood, inside the air cleaner, and even in the exhaust for signs of rodent or birds nest. Check wires, too, for any signs of nibbling. If there are bare spots, wrap them up. If there are breaks, well you better fix them before you go for your drive.
- Check the gas. Hopefully, you put your vehicle asleep with a full tank and some fuel stabilizer. If not, you may really want to consider draining the tank. It is very common for moisture to form and settle within the fuel tank during the cold months. It would be better to drain a few gallons and start with fresh than to send some water droplets through your fuel lines.
- Test your lights and horn. If you were able to hook up the battery, it is time to make sure your lights, signals (if you have them), and horn are in working order.
- Fire her up. Remember, that oil has had all winter to settle in the bottom of the pan. Start your vehicle gently. Don’t rev the engine. Let it chug to life and spread that slippery goodness around before you drive up the RPMs. While you sit there, listen. Does anything sound off to you? Ticking lifters? Any vibrations you don’t recognize? This is a good opportunity to compare with your memory of last season — and to formulate a work plan for further investigation.
- STOP! That is, slowly roll out of the vehicle’s hibernation location and check the brakes. They are going to be noisy, at the minimum. There is a winter’s worth of corrosion built up. But, they should wear into their place with just a few applications of the pedal. The point is, check them out while you are close to home and without passengers in the vehicle depending on you for their safety. If there are any issues with the brakes, you want to identify them right now before you commit to the ice-cream run.
While everyone has their own routine for reviving their HMVs in springtime (heck, I don’t know when the folks in California, Arizona, and Texas stop playing with their vehicles!), all of the above tips are valid for anytime you want to take a drive.
Keep ‘em rolling and Preserve the Memories,
John Adams-Graf, Editor
Military Vehicles Magazine and Military Trader
PS. It should be a good HMV season…gas is cheap, and a lot of good shows are scheduled (check our online calendar of events). I have seen and heard a lot of chatter from new HMV owners who will be displaying at their first event.