Now, I admit a passion for older vehicles, whether they be cars, trucks, or camper vans. They are very much like a woman who has, shall we say, driven around the block once or twice. Or more. They still have beautiful lines, their exterior can still be buffed to an acceptable glow, there’s a little bounce left in the springs, padding in the upholstery and, well, they have acquired a certain character over time.

One certainly sees one’s share of characters.

The difficulty though, as with any budding relationship, is trying to get a feel for what’s going on INSIDE the object of our possible affection. Oh sure, she purrs smoothly, but every man who is familiar with the potholes of life, who knows of the internal damage often caused by a lack of proper maintenance, possibly even neglect, and who has, himself, experienced the terrifying fires of a crash-and-burn, knows that deep down inside this deceptively apparent treasure, there has got to be something terribly wrong; and he’s not going to discover exactly what is is until after he’s made the commitment.

Well, sorry Son, there are no guarantees in life. There is one thing, however, which can let you enter into this potentially disappointing relationship with – at least – a little peace of mind…

…the rubber.

Examining the rubber components of any vehicle offers a splendid indication of how well the vehicle has been maintained, and provides a fairly accurate indication of how much money you’re going to have to invest to ensure she keeps purring at you lovingly, even once the honeymoon is obviously over.

Every rubber part on a vehicle should be soft and supple: no hardness, and certainly no cracks. A hard piece of rubber cannot perform the function it was designed to do, whether it is a tire, a hose, a belt or a bushing. A tire with cracks will soon begin losing air, sometimes quickly and often at the most inconvenient time. A hose which leaks either air, vacuum, or fluids will prevent the engine from running properly, or possibly the brakes from functioning. A rubber bushing, which provides cushioning and protection between two metal components, will allow those components to wear, work loose, or break, should the bushing grow too rigid. A belt which is cracked is going to break, and possibly damage the engine when it does.

Examine beneath the bonnet ( the hood), and all around the steering and suspension, looking for rubber components that have failed, or are failing. If they’ve already failed, it’s possible there’s other damage that will be needing repair. When you find pieces that need to be replaced, look around it and try to imagine how long it would take a mechanic to replace that part. Think in terms of about $100 an hour – plus parts.

Don’t get discouraged. There are many, many worthy matches out there just waiting to be discovered by the proper individual. You may reject a great many possibilities, some which have, maybe, just a bit too much character. But that’s OK – you’re not going to find what you need without a lot of searching, quite a bit of inspecting, or even the occasional test drive. So, get out there and start looking for that new partner to help to help you cruise down the highway of life.

Just don’t forget the rubber.