Oil Change

Auto manufacturers recommend changing engine oil every 3,000 miles or three months whichever comes first.

When the oil level is low the engine runs hot. Dirty oil contains contaminates that erode the pistons and cylinders.

I didn’t know much about changing oil in the summer of 1965. I didn’t own a car but working full time, saving money to buy one.

Not just any car but the 1956 Chevy Nomad, a two door station wagon and crown jewel of southern California “Cool” cars.

With a 170 horse power V8 engine, three speed manual transmission, and built in AM radio, this car had it all. It could go from 0-60 miles per hour in 11 seconds and had a top speed of 92 miles per hour. Only 7,886 were made and sold.

I finally found one. She was flawless, gun barrel grey with black leather interior.

Living in Los Angeles one can wake up early in the morning and drive to San Diego for a mid morning walk on the beach, lunch in Palm Springs, and snow ski down the slopes of Big Bear Mountain all in the same day.

That summer when Nomad wasn’t in the parking lot where I worked, she was on a road trip.

It was towards the end of summer on one of those gorgeous sunny days in Los Angeles, when the request was made.

I’m working, but Fred and Jim aren’t and need Nomad to take them to the beach, promising to bring her back before my shift is completed.

Reluctantly I agreed but under one condition. Nomad was due for an oil change and she couldn’t leave town until she had one.

In unison, they replied “no problem”.

One stop to buy the oil, another at Jim’s house to change the oil and they could be in Newport Beach by 10 AM.

Working in tandem like a NASCAR pit crew, Jim poured in the new oil the moment Fred finished draining the old. Within minutes they are on the road to the beach.

Then something went horribly wrong.

With six extra quarts of oil in her engine and no fluid in her transmission, Nomad breaks down just a couple of miles from the scene of the “oil change”.

It turns out the nut to drain the transmission fluid looks a lot like the nut to drain the engine oil and the two nuts that changed the oil didn’t know the difference.

As Nomad sometimes said “business is like an oil change; you have to do the right things at the right time in the right way”…

John A. Miller

April 2010

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