Particulate Matters: Captain’s Log
I guess I’ve always been someone who could be considered a thorough note taker, especially when it comes to cars, trucks, motorcycles, go-karts, or anything I’m involved with that’s propelled by an engine. Why? While I’ve never been formally diagnosed with memory loss, I’m the guy who remembers most critically important things with ease but sometimes struggles to recall a thought I had three minutes ago—the person who catches himself saying, “Oh, yeah, that’s right,” quite a bit.
That’s not meant to be a sad confession, but it is a true revelation nonetheless. I guess keeping track of information by writing it down (and despite our electronic age of computers and such, I still prefer scribbling details out on paper) is just something I’m comfortable with—and good at.
The maintenance-and-repair log I keep for Big White (my ’95 Ford F-350 dualie) is a testament to how uptight I really am regarding documenting details about vehicles—especially my rides. The ledger I’ve been keeping since I purchased the truck in 2004 really isn’t something I even think about very much anymore. Whenever an oil service is done or upgrades are made, I just pull the little notebook out of the glove compartment and enter all the particulars. My notes about a December 2017 parts replacement made me pause and take a good reflective look at the log, and I knew right away that I needed to discuss it in Particulate Matters.
As preparation for an early January trip to Devil Mountain Diesel in Walnut Creek, California (350 miles one way), I changed the oil, checked the tire pressure and coolant level, and performed other maintenance tasks. Log notes for these procedures are fairly standard and, at this point, I don’t know how many similar entries I’ve made. But after remembering a chirping idler-pulley bearing, I decided to replace the entire belt-tensioner assembly, too. A look back through the pages of the log let me know it had been a little more than two years since the serpentine belt was replaced (a fresh belt was included during the truck’s turbocharger, fuel system, and head-studs upgrade). However, I also thought I had installed a tensioner and idler at least once prior, back when I bought Big White. After flipping pages to the early years of ownership, I found the confirmation: “May 9, 2007, replaced serpentine belt, tensioner, and idler pulley, 96,667 actual miles.” Ten years and nearly 64,000 miles later, on goes new hardware. In the big picture, that’s pretty much in line with mechanics’ recommended timeframe for making such a replacement.
Having the record isn’t just helpful for me as the F-350’s owner. I believe that having a thorough maintenance and/or repair history also benefits whoever Big White’s next owner ends up being. No, I’m not planning to sell my rig now or any time soon. I’m just glad that if or when I do let her go, I’ll have documentation to support everything I say has been done to the truck since I’ve owned it. Now, I know the whole pen-and-paper thing isn’t for everyone. Writing things down is an old-school practice at this point. But that doesn’t mean your truck’s history can’t be documented electronically: in your cell phone, tablet, or computer. I’m sure there are plenty of apps and software available that make doing it super simple.
The bottom line here is this: Take the time to log whatever changes you make to your truck as quickly as possible after the work is completed. For those of you who are like me (can’t remember a darn thing), doing it not only preserves facts, it often also serves as memory that we don’t usually have.
Established on August 29, 2004, my ’95 Ford F-350’s maintenance-and-repair logbook contains details on every service, repair, upgrade, and such that Big White has received since I’ve owned her.
While the contents of my truck’s record book is varied, EVERY change of something—in this case, serpentine belts, tensioners, and idler pulleys—is accounted for, including the part numbers and the vehicle’s actual mileage. The truck’s serpentine-belt saga began back in 2007, when a replacement belt had to be replaced only 2,480 miles into service. That’s when I discovered the OEM belt tensioner failed. Its replacement was performed without any problem until an idler-pulley bearing began making sounds of dryness 10 years later.