Carved in Stone

Phil Ramsey
Tags: automotive

…you have built houses of carved stone. But you shall not live in them…
- Amos 5:11 MKJV

I am convinced that it was young men who built the pyramids and carved all of the murals in the monuments of Central and South America. My theory is this: as I have grown older I’ve noticed that everything I believed to be true and carved in stone when I was a younger man, has begun to change. Life is indeed change.

I’ve been involved in the automotive repair industry since I began to work in my father’s gas station almost 50 years ago, back in 1957. Things in the business have definitely changed since then.

In two of my recent columns, I noted that I was reevaluating my position on synthetic versus mineral oil and the types of filtration that should be used on the modern automobile. I have been writing this column for longer than three years, and as I read through my earlier works, I’ve noticed that things have changed - not only in the 40+ years of my experience in the auto repair industry, but constants and standards have also shifted over the years from that first column in 2001.

Older and Wiser
Being older and hopefully wiser, I can therefore conclude that only young men and women would dare to carve things in stone. Older folks know that many notions once accepted as fact are going to change, and hopefully for the better.

I suggest you go to and review all of my columns to see the changes. I expect that those of you experienced in the lubrication techniques and methods written in those pages would recognize these subtle changes in other articles as well as in your work environments.

Beginning in May 2001, I described how I was in on the beginning of one of the major changes in the auto industry, the introduction of multiple viscosity oil. In a personal note in the same article, “New Meaning to Oil Consumer”, I noted that my daughter who studied chemical engineering as I did years ago used an HP calculator and that I had used a Pickett slide rule - quite a big difference there.

In “Multigrade Oil - To Use or Not To Use”, I talked of WWII aerial combat and the lack of multiweight oils. Multiweight oils had been developed to achieve better pumpability. In that article, Drew Troyer pointed out that “in the past decade, the emphasis on lubricant viscosity selection has shifted from wear minimization to improved fuel economy and reduced emissions.” Even the advantage of pumpability had taken a back seat to wear, then to fuel economy. In “A Breath of Fresh Air”, I discussed how waste oil was spread on the road to minimize dust when I was a boy. I am sure that this has changed, and may even involve arrests and fines if done today.

Time for a Change” talked about when to change your oil. We could say that even the process of changing is changing.

Those old six-volt batteries in the cars from the late 1940s and early 1950s had changed to 12 volts. In “42 – Gallons, Life and Volts”, I wrote of the impending change from 12 to 36/42 volts. Not even electricity is constant.

In “Replace or Convert”, I wrote about air conditioning. Living in the Deep South region of the United States, this is an important subject. In this enlightened age of environmental concerns, refrigerant used in car air conditioners has changed from R12 to R134. Neither one works better than the other, but environmental concerns dictate that we use R134 nowdays. In the article, I outlined the times to help readers make the decision to replace or convert.

Writing the column “Look in the Book”, I addressed the one thing that has not changed: man’s ability to ignore the instruction manual, even when it costs him money. This is a practice we can and need to change.

I discussed the often-used excuse for higher and higher motor oil specifications in “A Tight Squeeze.” Many people quote the oil maxim that motor oil must be better and better, because tighter engine tolerances are rapidly increasing. “What has really changed over the past few years are the heat loads that both oil and coolants are expected to handle. I didn’t know there was a 195-degree thermostat when I was in high school. Because I lived in a semitropical environment, we often didn’t keep thermostats in our cars. They were for people who needed the heater to work in their cars.”

The article “Almost Burned” talked about why transmission fluid has changed as a result of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Because of this change and the changing temperature requirements on motors, I discussed why we had to change transmission fluid whenever the engine ran hot. Burned transmission fluid will cause the transmission to fail if not changed immediately after the engine has overheated.

In the first 50 years of the 100-year history of automobile, grease and oil were all that were needed. “Fill ’Er Up – Know the Fluids Under Your Hood”, talked about the eight or nine fluids that are now under the hood of your car. Increasing the number from two to nine fluids, those are real fluid dynamics.

Remember the gas stations with full-service pumps and a staff of young men who could fix most anything on your car? In “Who is Under the Hood?”, I discussed the change to selfserve, the increased complexity of the modern car, and the disappearance of any apprentice opportunities for young mechanics. Auto technicians make very good money, if you can find one. To often, it is rather a case of an undertrained mechanic operating with equipment he knows little about, on cars which he does not understand.

In the article “The Sweet Taste of Antifreeze”, I wrote about one quality that hasn’t changed: our five senses. I talked about how a mechanic uses his senses in diagnosing problems under the hood of a car.

Two-Dollar Vacation”, was an article I wrote trying to convert people to change their driving habits and experiment with gasoline tire pressure.

Other Bits of Wisdom
In other columns for this magazine, I’ve written about how to buy tires, and how the gauges are arranged in your car versus a race car. I’ve discussed oil storage and the increasing amount of electric motors in cars, along with many other subjects. Without commenting on all of the articles, let me just suggest that you read them, for you might learn something new and change your habits for the better.

We have seen bearings greased with animal fats evolve into synthetic compounds formulated to fit the wet or dry, hot or cold, atmosphere or gaseous, and vertical or horizontal requirements of today’s machinery.

Fuel has changed from coal-fired boilers, to oil, to nuclear. Solar, fuel cell, and byproduct consumption are being more closely examined. Indeed, change is constant and always will be. Nothing should be carved in stone. To think that the practice of lubrication started with those fat-greased waterwheels – called a Noria – some 4,000 years ago. How many of you knew that Noria, the company, draws its name from those waterwheels from long ago?

I hope one thing does not change. I hope you come back again and again.