Friday, May 11, 2012

Everyone Loves Parades

Okay, it's been a while and a lot has happened.  For starters, last Saturday I flew to Phoenix and met the donor vehicle.  After getting up at 4am to catch the Super Shuttle to LAX, I was pretty much exhausted by the time I landed in Phoenix at 9am.  Fortunately, Raul, the salesperson at National Auto Mart, very helpfully picked me up at the airport and drove me to the auction house.  He was a really nice guy, and clearly a family man.  When he asked what I was going to use it for, I explained it was going to be turned into a parade float.  This seems to be the easiest way to explain the project.  He hadn't heard of Burning Man, but he said if I sent him a picture he'd add it to the wall in the office which had pictures of all the nicest and coolest cars that had been auctioned off there.  I told him he'll get a picture of it via email at the end of summer, and that was that.

So there in the parking lot was my new Tiltmaster, and I immediately hit the road.  It was a long day to say the least, and I finally got back to Orange County around 6 at night.  I never noticed it before but pretty much all of California has a 55 mph truck speed limit.  The truck really didn't like going over 65 anyway, and it was actually a lot less noisy and more comfortable going 55.  The CD player is broken, so all I heard was diesel engine for the 380 mile drive back.  It gets 11.5 mph completely empty.  I filled the 30 gallon tank when it was half empty a few times, since I didn't know how much was in there or if the gauges could be trusted.  Aside from the broken CD player and a tendency for it to pull to the right, it performed flawlessly.  The ride is a bit stiff while empty, and the transmission cracks off shifts like a rifle.  I am sure under some load it smooths out a bit. My first day's impression left me motivated to make the first modification: a pair of fuzzy dice.  This thing demands fuzzy dice hanging from the ceiling like no vehicle I've ever owned (there is no rearview mirror).  It's like it was speaking to me.  Kind of like my old Dodge Ram needed a gun rack and for its driver to get a cowboy hat.
The following Monday I took it into Tom's Truck Center in Santa Ana for some maintenance and an inspection.  Once I started noticing trucks, I started noticing that a whole lot of them had Tom's Truck Center mud flaps, and they're a big new truck dealer and I figured they could be trusted.  Personally I'm more fond of those Yosemite Sam "Back Off" mud flaps, and have been eyeing those too.  All kinds of strange personalization ideas come into my head.  Don't get me started on the appropriate license plate frame.

Anyway, so I quickly learned that medium duty commercial trucks are really expensive to maintain.  Try $490 every 26K miles for transmission fluid and $190 every 6.5K miles for engine oil.  For either, it takes 13.5l of oil or fluid (about 3.5 gallons).  The power steering fluid should be changed every 32.5K.  And it keeps going. The drive belts have to be replaced periodically too. I had all those done and later on read the owners manual to find out the differential oil, air cleaner, and valve lash also probably need to be done.  Who knows when the prior owners did it.

The prior owners did maintain the brakes at least.  The alignment was less perfect, since it pulled to one side, and plus the front tires were shot.  I got two new (next load rating up) tires on there and got it aligned.  Now I'd been noticing some diesel exhaust smell in the cab while idling, and sure enough they found a broken manifold stud and an exhaust leak.  $700 later that was fixed, since I don't want to drive this around at 5mph and accidentally get asphyxiated.  All told, I got all this service and repair done for under $3K after negotiating myself a 10% discount.  Plus I think the service guy liked me and gave me a break for explaining that this will become a parade float.  Everyone loves parades!