Ask me anything about vehicle repair

fimbulvetr

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Howdy! Good question!

First, you'll want to have a way to change out a tire, and have a spare tire for when you need it. You can get a T-handle wrench with 4 different sizes in 1 tool, or since you only need 1 Size for your lug nuts, save weight and get a breaker bar and socket. You'll need a jack to raise vehicle too, but your van should have one of those. If not, get a small scissor jack or bottle jack. I usually carry a piece of 2x4 also, to give myself a "foot print" for if I need to jack up vehicle in sand or gravel or dirt. Being prepared to change your own flat tire is going to save you at least $150 tow bill. A tire plug kit is good item to have in a pinch also.

Next would be jumper cables. A jump pack is ideal, but they are big and costly, not needed. Small jump packs are becoming available, but they are pricey. Nice to have though. Even if you have a jump pack, you'll want cables for when the pack is dead and you didn't know it was dead. I personally also carry around an 80w solar panel to recharge a dead battery.

As far as tools go, I carry full set of wrenches, standard and metric. Not needed for 1 vehicle, but I find myself working on other cars besides my own on the road. A set of 3/8" drive sockets and ratchet will be handy. Get the 6 point kind vs. 12 point. I find the 12 point sockets strip slightly rusty bolt head too easily.
Some brake calipers require Torx or hex drive bits to removed and install new pads.

Other basic hand tools I don't travel without are pliers (2 or 3 styles) a hammer, pry bar, big pair of channel lock pliers also, for pushing caliper pistons back in when installing new brake pads. A few different size screw drivers are good to have.

Solid Metal wire is a good temp fix item to have on board, as well as electrical tape and some wire nuts. Have a couple extra fuses of assorted sizes, make sure you know what fuses your van takes before buying some. There are 3-4 main styles.

*This is all pretty general stuff to have, I encourage everyone to become familiar with their vehicle to know exactly what tools to have to preform basic fixes on the road.

Everyone is different in their ability to repair shit on the road, and the more you feel confident in doing, the more tools you'll want to have.

*Your specific van (99 gmc) does not run a timing belt, so no worries there. I would however do a transmission fluid drain and fill. Do not flush. Can remove the pan and change filter too if you want, good idea. Other areas of common failure are chassis parts; tie rod ends, ball joints, etc. These things can be difficult to change on side of road, but possible. Starters, alternators, batteries, drive belts, brakes, even water pumps can all be fixed on side of road. These are things you'll want tools for. Also, like most of us, we tend to put alot of stuff/weight inside vans, well because they hold alot! New shocks on all 4 Conners are a night and day difference when driving. If you've loaded the van up good, I recommend new shocks.

Hope this helped! Good luck and safe travels!

Thank you for the expansive response. I do need to get I jack actually. My van was a Comcast service van in it's previous van and it had a server rack, which I had to sawzall out piece by piece because it was welded in, but to that end it also had two 90AH deep cycle batteries, which are connected to the alternator, with what looks like a buck converter. I have since bolted two 100 watt solar panels(I got from a guy that was liquidating his solar installation company) to the roof and a charge controller and now the battery bank can charge off either the solar panels, or the alternator, which is nice and I got cables that can reach from the battery bank to the starter battery if I ever need to jump myself.

I have put a lot of weight into the van and probably more to come as I install some sort of water holding tank(It is amazing how much weight water adds). So I probably should do the shocks at some point soon. I just replaced the transmission fluid and was told at my last oil change that I should probably do the rear differential service next(seems easy enough to do myself from what I have seen). Good to hear about the timing belt, I hadn't got that far yet, but thats something I wouldn't feel too comfortable doing without a more experienced comrade to help. My last car had a timing chain, which they said should last the lifetime of the car, so it's been a while since I had to worry about that.

This thing has been a lot of work, but has kept me dry and warm, and I'd like to return the favor by keeping it running as long as I can. Thanks again!
 

Jerrell

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Hey bro!

I have a brakes issue. I've been getting, shuddering for lack of a better word, when going down a steep grade. It's been pretty wet too, so maybe that is playing into it.
Brake fluid level is fine and you know how old my front brakes are (how's the uke playing coming along?). So maybe the back brakes are going? How concerned should I be about this as I start heading back toward Iowa...like should I go around mountainous areas instead of through?
 
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SaltyCrew

SaltyCrew

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Hey bro!

I have a brakes issue. I've been getting, shuddering for lack of a better word, when going down a steep grade. It's been pretty wet too, so maybe that is playing into it.
Brake fluid level is fine and you know how old my front brakes are (how's the uke playing coming along?). So maybe the back brakes are going? How concerned should I be about this as I start heading back toward Iowa...like should I go around mountainous areas instead of through?
Howdy dude! Does the wheel shake back and forth when you brake, or just shudder/pulse? If you're riding the brakes on grades, it's going to warp the rotors, but your front ones are new, doesn't mean a few good decents won't warp a new set though. If your wheel doesn't shake bad, it's probably the rear rotors starting to warp. It helps save your brakes if you apply and release them while descenting, gives them time to cool off. Uke is great! Hope your travels are going good otherwise!
 

Jerrell

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Just the shuddering thing, no motion in the wheel. I try to do the pump thing vs riding them. The shuddering isn't every time/all the time, so I'll just be more mindful and use 3 or L when I can more often as well. This trans is starting to get rough just parking on hills, so I am leary about shifting too much. haha I hate automatics!
The journey has been great...made it to the PNW/Olympic Natl Forest as planned, so now I'm just killing time til it warms up enough to head to IA.
 
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SaltyCrew

SaltyCrew

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Just the shuddering thing, no motion in the wheel. I try to do the pump thing vs riding them. The shuddering isn't every time/all the time, so I'll just be more mindful and use 3 or L when I can more often as well. This trans is starting to get rough just parking on hills, so I am leary about shifting too much. haha I hate automatics!
The journey has been great...made it to the PNW/Olympic Natl Forest as planned, so now I'm just killing time til it warms up enough to head to IA.
Right on I hear you. Sounds like it's probably the rear rotors then. Just try to baby it till you get out of the hills. Use your 2-3 gear on the descents, yes. Check trans oil level make sure it's in operating range. (Check while it's running, the dip stick says procedure and oil type) The mountains are brutal on cars, I'll never buy a car from the mountains!

Olympic forest Would be sweet I'll make it up there someday! I'm all the way up in the UP of Michigan now and there still over a foot of snow!!
 
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Joe Btfsplk

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"I'm all the way up in the UP of Michigan now and there still over a foot of snow!!"

I used to drive truckloads of U.S. Mail from Milwaukee to the Upper Peninsula, the Iron Mountain MI post office, pick up their outbound mail, and stopped in Green Bay WI for a load of religious magazines on the way back.

Michigan is now gearing up for medical and rec marijuana; legalized in the state. This will be a boon for us landlocked upper Midwestern stoners. Things are currently being hammered out; it's only a matter of time until said and done. Let's see if Michigan can rival the western states in high-octane smoke.

It would be fun to meet with you, SaltyCrew, if you live up there. Lovely warm weather clime, brutal come winter.
 

ByronMc

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When you do go solar have a look into used tesla batteries. My uncles off grid cabin even runs an a/c at night (6000 btu, 410 watt) off if his 3 battery pack 13kwh storage setup. I believe he runs 4kw of panels though, its his whole roof plus a clearing next to the house with 12 panels (250w i believe).
At the moment, am only getting it ready to get DMV to transfer title status to RV.
Then I’ll go through the mechanical & then onto solar
 

Seethru2

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I just added oil and coolant recently, after an overheat, still getting close to overheating whenever I go to move. When we overheated, I put water straight into the radiator, and 3 quarts of oil. Since then I added coolant (undiluted) thinking that it would be dilute itself in the system because I had filled the system with only water to get me thru. Could this be why I'm now getting close to overheating? What should I do? Drain some coolant? Add some water?
 

Hylyx

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If you already overheated you may have killed the thermostat(an easy fix).what vehicle do you have? Usually you'll wait till it's cold, fill up the radiator until it's full, close the radiator, run the engine for like a minute, fill the radiator again, and then fill the reservoir while the engine runs.

And yeah, if you know your mixture isn't right, adding just coolant won't hurt anything, it will definitely mix up in the engine.
 
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SaltyCrew

SaltyCrew

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If you already overheated you may have killed the thermostat(an easy fix).what vehicle do you have? Usually you'll wait till it's cold, fill up the radiator until it's full, close the radiator, run the engine for like a minute, fill the radiator again, and then fill the reservoir while the engine runs.

And yeah, if you know your mixture isn't right, adding just coolant won't hurt anything, it will definitely mix up in the engine.
This advice is maybe 1/3 true. Yes if a thermostat sticks closed, it will overheat the engine. You feel the upper radiator hose, even squeeze it to see if there is coolant coming through. If upper hose is cold while engine is hot, thermostat is stuck shut.
 
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SaltyCrew

SaltyCrew

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I just added oil and coolant recently, after an overheat, still getting close to overheating whenever I go to move. When we overheated, I put water straight into the radiator, and 3 quarts of oil. Since then I added coolant (undiluted) thinking that it would be dilute itself in the system because I had filled the system with only water to get me thru. Could this be why I'm now getting close to overheating? What should I do? Drain some coolant? Add some water?
How long did you let it stay running when it over heated? If you added coolant, it's losing it somewhere. Fill it up, run it, see where it's coming out. If it's not leaking, it's burning it internally, that's bad. That means you popped a head gasket.

Did you check the level of the oil before you added 3 quarts? That's alot of oil to add, as most engines only take 4-6 quarts total. If you added 3 quarts oil for fun and didn't check it, you'll fuck it up.

Stuck thermostat can cause overheat. Broken radiator fan can cause overheat. Low coolant level can cause overheat. Bad radiator cap can cause overheat. Any leak in the cooling system can cause over heat.
 
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SaltyCrew

SaltyCrew

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If you drove it any distance while the temp was pegged, chances are you made it worse. It over heated for a reason, and until that is fixed it will keep overheating. If it was simply low on coolant, and you filled it up, shouldn't overheat anymore. The fact it still overheats, something is broken, one of things I suggested in previous post. Good luck, overheated engines tend to need major repair (head gasket). If you shut it down before it started bubbling and smoking everywhere, might be able to save it. Have a pro look at it, shouldn't take long to figure out what's wrong.
 
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