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Ask Dave the Car Guy: Shake, rattle, roll over dirt roads

By Dave Herman - Ask Dave the Car Guy

Not sure when I got the handle "Dave the Car Guy," but it has been with me since I was a babe in my mother's arms in the front seat of red 1952 Mercury Monterey; I can still hear the rumble of that "punched out 255 cid" as I drifted off to sleep.

So 60 years later, having lived my passion building Porsche race cars and teaching high performance driving, I am here to answer your automotive questions, lay to rest any misconceptions about maintenance, buying a new or used car, and even teaching your teen, or worse, your spouse to drive.

Topic for today: dirt roads. Much has been written about dirt roads ...

"The nicest people live on dirt roads."

"People who live on dirt roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride."

... but not much has been written about your car and the effects of dirt and bumps, so let's go there before you buy that wonderful house on that picturesque road. At least you will know what to expect.

You can always tell people who live on dirt roads - their cars are always dirty. Why bother to wash 'em? The minute you drive out from your home you will be dusted by someone returning, or even if no one passes, you will be engulfed in a barrage of debris left behind by the last person
who drove down the road.

So, yeah, you leave the air recirculate on at all times to keep the dust from entering your interior, and make sure you have dirt-colored seats and dash when that trick doesn't work out too well.

When you take the car in for its checkup. make sure the cabin pollen filters and charcoal filters are checked and cleaned.

What I hear most from people complaining about their dirt roads is suspension related.

Think pot holes when you are looking at that quaint and idyllic road because when the rains have gone and Mr. Grader has been cut back on his hours, you will be living with the dreaded pot holes and, even worse, the washboard road. It can shake the fillings right out of your teeth even when attempted at slow speeds. Autocross is the name of the game; dodge and dart, challenge those driving skills because if you don't you will be replacing ball joints, tie rods, cv joints, and bushings of every imaginable name.

There's not much you can do for the engine. Check your mountings periodically to make sure all parts are where they are supposed to be and your battery cables are still secure. Keep that air filter cleaned; tap the dirt out on a firm surface outside. I use a brick wall near my driveway and my neighbor uses his leaf blower. Most anything will work. The key is to make it a monthly habit. Remember the air filter is the gateway to the engine/crankcase where all those moving parts like to move freely unencumbered by by dirt!

So to wrap it up, remember that reducing your speed will save you in parts and money, not to mention make you a safer driver and better neighbor to those you used to blanket with a wall of dirt as you drove by.

Before his retirement, Dave Herman ran one of the largest independent German service centers in Northern Virginia. He has built, raced and taught racing to Porsche/BMW drivers. He lives in Shenandoah County, where he has opened a driving school. Email your comments and questions about anything automotive to info@nvdaily.com.


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