There's nothing quite like the feel of a properly set up off-road machine as it hustles down a lumpy trail, the suspension tuned to keep the tires in contact with the ground and soak up bumps without disturbing the passengers.
A new set of wheels or tires - or both - is a fun thing; you bring the truck home with the new rims and rubber in place, then carefully check the air pressure and double-check the lug nuts. You then stand back and admire the new wheels and tires, forgetting for a moment the wads of cash you just laid out. After that, it's either off to the dirt to try out the new goodies or time for more admiration, telling yourself just how cool your truck looks with its new shoes
I enjoy finding a trail, a sand dune, a mud bog, or a group of rocks that was heretofore unknown to me or my 'wheeling friends. Some trails may have become old hat to those familiar with its twists, turns, whoops, and technical aspects, but if you've never 'wheeled the area, it's new to you - and me.
I delight in updating my truck's suspension with the latest high-zoot shocks and dampers. There's a lot of satisfaction that goes along with junking a pair of "basic" dampers and upgrading to an adjustable, performance-bred shock or damper. As with a new set of wheels and tires, I can sit in my driveway at home and stare at the new shocks and their equally new mounts for hours, congratulating myself on how slick the setup is. Once, I nearly broke my arm while patting myself on the back, congratulating myself on the trick new shocks I had just installed, but that's another story.
I don't take much pleaure in underhood hoses and wires, but they're a fact of life with late-model trucks. I actually prefer the look of a street rod engine - cleanly simple and void of unnecessary hoses, wires, and gizmos. Failing in any attempt to eliminate all underhood plumbing and electrical lines, I admire owners whose trucks exhibit engines with professionally attired hoses, thoroughly wrapped and routed wires, and aircraft clamps galore. Spark plug wires are equally important and should be equipped with wire looms and alloy brackets - form and function are the watchwords. Braided-steel aircraft hose is impressive, yes, but I've seen many truck engines that showed a truly functional look although they were equipped with nothing more than black rubber hoses. Of course the hoses in question were thoughtfully routed, of the proper length, and adequately retained; traits that work with any kind of engine or chassis plumbing.
I find aftermarket parts that fit without a lot of "massaging" pleasing. Maybe I'm just getting old and lazy, but I don't really enjoy carefully installing a part, component, or system, only to find fitment issues. Then the accessory has to be removed, massaged, and reinstalled. If this process is repeated three or more times, I don't define the part as a true bolt-on.
Normal maintenance procedures are equally rewarding. Changing a truck's engine, transmission, and differential oil just breeds confidence. Cleaning and re-oiling a gauze-style air filter is satisfying because I feel as if I'm installing a new filter. Simple things such as changing a PCV valve or a fuel filter are feel-good processes because you know the engine function will improve. Installing new brake pads, brake shoes, and brake rotors elicits a positive response, especially after the brakes are bled, bedded-in, and are functioning in an impressive manner. Every time you hit the stoppers, a voice in the back of your brain says, "I did a fine job on the brakes." Just don't break your arm congratulating yourself.
I fancy clean windows - really clean windows (inside and out) - and a relatively clean interior. Driving a truck with a slightly or moderately dirty exterior doesn't bother me that much, but I must have clean windows. It's some sort of phobia, I guess.
As with any subject, there's more - a lot more in fact. But I want to hear from you. What do you like? Write to me or send me an e-mail; it doesn't have to be extensive or professionally written, just sincere, straightforward, or humorous. I'll take a look at what you have to say and print a few of them in a future column. Until next month.