How to Maintain a Truck: Tips When Buying a Used Pickup

Doyce M. Purcell shares tips on how to choose a used pick-up by comparing the ease of tuning-up various truck models.

| November/December 1971

Not long ago the ruggedest, most versatile farm utility vehicle made anywhere was the pickup truck manufactured by the American automotive industry. Like most Detroit brain children, it was a mother-bear to work on . . . but the body was solid enough to withstand the most abusive treatment and the springs—designed for shouldering brawny loads down back roads—could put kinks in your backbone.

Recently, though, the American pickup truck has been transformed into a glorified town car, making it more difficult to know how to maintain a truck. Its body is now tinnier, chromier, more sculptured . . . and the springs have been softened so much in an effort to make the vehicle suitable for Miss America to drive to the boat dock that, today, a new "stock" pickup is hardly qualified to haul a load of feathers to a comfort factory. But, to be fair, the machine's engine has been improved and somebody up there has actually begun to think about us poor devils who have to work on the monster.

Now, if you've never owned a real working vehicle of any kind, you might not realize just how important that last point—which I call "maintenance potential"—can be. In truth, though, the maintenance potential (how easily and economically a machine can be repaired by its owner) is of supreme importance to anyone buying a new or used pickup . . . especially if the buyer will be operating the vehicle in a remote area and/ or on a limited budget.

To determine the MP of a pickup, first compare the size of the truck's engine with the size of the vehicle's engine compartment. Look at the clearance between the firewalls and the engine (bearing in mind that clear space equals easier working conditions every time you're forced to make an adjustment or replace something).

Next, concentrate on the manner in which the engine and its accessories are arranged within that space. Is everything packed tightly into a confusing maze? That sort of efficiency can cause you to move half the engine to get at the generator or adjust the carb . . . and will cost you time and barked knuckles (if you do your own repairs) or money (if you hire it done). Either way, it certainly takes the joy out of even minor maintenance.

Is the engine a six cylinder or a V-8? An eight has its uses on a drag strip but there are several arguments against it in a utility vehicle. For one, it's a hard dude to work on. An eight also has more moving parts to replace than a six and the arrangement of those parts generally makes for a lot more grunting and straining when repair time rolls around. And then there's the eight's greater appetite for fuel.

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