Considering buying an old pickup truck (Hilux), and teaching myself how to maintain/repair it. Where to begin?
September 3, 2011 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Considering buying an old pickup truck (Hilux), and teaching myself how to maintain/repair it. Where to begin?

I know nothing about cars or engines, but have always wanted to learn. My plan is to do some research, and eventually buy a cheap, old Hilux when I find something suitable at a good price sometime in the next year or two.

Two main questions:

How do I make an informed decision in buying - what should I know, what should I look for, what should I think about?

How do I get started in teaching myself about maintaining and repairing a truck? Any forums I should read, books I should buy, clubs I should join?

Reason I want I Hilux is for its reputation as a well-built, long-lasting vehicle that will endure with a knowledgeable owner.

I am in the UK if that is relevant.
posted by MetaMonkey to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You're on the right track. Hiluxes are great trucks, I wish I could get them more easily here in the states. (Especially the diesel!)

Be on the watch for rust and rot. Once rust starts, it's really hard to stop. Dealing with rust is my least favorite part of auto repair. Personally, I would pay more for something with as little rot as I could find.

Buy the manual for the truck. They've taught me a ton! Haynes brand are passable and affordable, find a PDF of the factory manual if you can.

Enjoy! Wrenching can be a blast!
posted by thebigdeadwaltz at 3:01 PM on September 3, 2011

Thebigdeadwaltz is spot on. Second'ing the manual for the truck and the rust/rot issue.

The Haynes and/or shop manual won't teach you skills but it will tell you the important bits for a particular job ("oh, I'm supposed to remove the samophlange before I frob the brake line? Good to know!")

My one additional buying qualification: do not, under any circumstances, give in to the temptation to buy a truck that isn't running or road-legal. It may look like a steal. You'll tell yourself that it's just part X and you'll fix that right up. You'll be fooled. Learning trucks need to run reasonably well because, as a novice, it will be difficult for you to separate multiple problems. You need to be able to say "okay it ran fine yesterday and now it is missing. What could be wrong?"

I guess the simple analogy: if you're new to dating, don't pick an unpredictable psycho who doesn't speak solid English as your first. Once you get to be an expert, then go for the difficult cases.

As to learning, my best advice is to start with simple non-problems. Brakes worn? Change the pads. Been a while since last tune-up? Change the plugs, wires, and cap. Jobs like that are pretty easy to understand from the manual and online advice and you can't screw them up too badly. Worst thing you can do is the car won't start or you'll have to use the e-break to stop when you test it in your driveway. Having a friend/relative/coworker who can advise you / look over your shoulder on bigger projects is awfully handy. Bribe them with food, beer, or trade in a skill that you have.

Have fun and don't catch yourself on fire. Also, we can't mention the hilux without linking (all three parts of) the best video series ever.
posted by introp at 4:12 PM on September 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's worth doing extensive model year change research on any vehicle you buy, simply to verify that the main elements of the vehicle are reliable, and worth repairing/maintaining.

Second, be aware that when you buy a vehicle more than 10 years old, you're also buying into older generations of sheet metal metallurgy, design technology, electronics, and materials science. You won't be getting stainless steel exhaust components, unless you replace the factory parts, yourself. The steels used in body panel manufacture won't be nearly as rust resistant in older vehicles. The brake technology will be behind today's average quality significantly, meaning you'll do more brake maintenance, unless you carefully find and match upgraded replacement brake components. You won't be getting today's electronic traction control or vehicle stability systems. Your engine management systems will be minimal, and accordingly, your fuel mileage and overall driveability will be less than a more modern vehicle can deliver. And thus many of the skills you learn from keeping a particular old vehicle going, simply won't apply to more modern vehicles.

Keeping antiques on the road can be a fun hobby, just like keeping WWII propeller fighters flying can be. But at some point, what you know and what you learn about such vehicles, doesn't translate well to today's products. As long as you're fine with that, have fun.
posted by paulsc at 5:51 PM on September 3, 2011

To each their own, I suppose, but when I upgraded from my carbureted, thrice-repainted, rear drum-brake, rear drive '81 Toyota Corolla to my shiny, shiny Honda the only thing I had to learn was where to plug in the OBD-2 connector under the dash. Everything else that's needed servicing (transmission seal, timing belt, water pump, alternator, door handle, brake rotors, exhaust hanger, headlight relay, etc.) was exactly the same technology as my '81 just in a shinier plastic package. Well, technically the CV joint I had to slide out as part of the transmission work wasn't on my '81, but I learned how those work from a 1970 VW bug. :P
posted by introp at 6:32 PM on September 3, 2011

If you see one that has been either lifted or lowered, of if you think it's ever been driven off-road, look hard at its mechanical condition. You want a private-party sale, ideally one that's been owned by the same person for a while (exceptions exist for e.g. estate sales, of course).
posted by box at 6:55 PM on September 3, 2011

This might cost you some money. The most expensive vehicle I ever owned was a classic that was given to me, my hope to restore it... Restoring cars can be really really expensive. This kind of education can be quite expensive.

In the US there are places where you can take group classes in mechanics for non-professionals... Fun, and very useful. Even if you dont learn to do all the repairs on your car, being knowledgeable can help you make good consumer choices.

Good luck. Funny when you mentioned Hilux... I thought it was like HIllman Husky, of which my family owned two different ones way back in the day. One of the worst cars ever made. From above comments, Hilux must be quite different.

posted by jcworth at 7:22 PM on September 3, 2011

Buy the Haynes or Chilton's book. Buy or download the Factory Service Manual, but don't expect to understand any of it right away.
Look around at forums specific to what you're looking at buying.
A Hilux is a hobby truck. You'll find forums where people have already asked any question you might have about repairs, and a good forum will have step by step walkthroughs of everything from an oil change to an engine swap.
Start buying tools now.
Since it's your first project, don't expect it to ever look like it's factory new.
posted by gally99 at 8:44 PM on September 3, 2011

I asked a similar question, but centered on California/US.
posted by fake at 9:13 AM on September 4, 2011

Response by poster: Very useful, thanks everyone.
posted by MetaMonkey at 3:21 PM on September 5, 2011

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