even in the year of our lord, 2012, one should do a little vehicle assessment before taking off on a long trip.
remembering back to my youth, i can see my dad checking the oil and fluids, the pressure in the tires, in general doing all he could to assure that whatever wreck he was driving at the time would make it to wherever we were going-- and back.
on the friday after thanksgiving, we were in austin with our son c. he was driving the wife's suv on our way out to eat when he noticed the check oil light would come on briefly. on saturday we drove to arlington for the Tech/Baylor game and back. other than the engine noise being louder than usual, i noticed nothing out of the ordinary.
in fact, i'd not noticed any warning light before, having driven from little a-town to conroe then up to Austin, but when filling up with gas in prep for the trip back home on sunday I checked the oil. the dipstick came back dry on the first check. $5 for a quart of convenience store oil later, the dipstick came back dry a second time. another $5 for another quart of oil later-- the dipstick registered "low". another $5 for another quart of oil brought the level up to where it should have been before we ever left town.
i haven't a clue how the oil level got that low. the engine is not burning oil that I can see, it's not dripping oil out onto the floor of the garage. the car was in the shop a while back during which the timing belt was replaced, among other things. perhaps the shop didn't put in the right amount of oil after the repairs. who knows?
what I do know, or what I have been reminded of, is that even with the level of sophistication in our modern vehicles, there is a minimum amount of attention/pm required to ensure that your ride will get you there, and back again.
what was good enough for my daddy in the '50's is the new order of the day here at 7420. it worked for him and it will work for me, you and anyone. just do it! no more, stick the key in the ignition and if it starts it's good to go for this old fool.
and, do you know what? it's amazing what three quarts of oil will do to quiet down that loud engine noise. and, do you know what else? $15 for convenience store oil is a small price to pay as compared to the cost of a new engine, or worse. : )