Monday, May 3, 2010

Mechanical Monday

I hope you had a great weekend.  Mine was rather quiet as I stuck close to the ol' homestead, just doing a wee bit of housekeeping and spending lots of time with the dogs until yesterday. 

Yesterday morning I phoned a fellow in response to a classified ad for a four-wheeler.  He returned my call a bit afternoon and I was soon on my way to town to take a peek.  After giving the machine the once over two or three times, and realizing that even though the price was too good to be true, he convinced me the price was true and I didn't even try to bargain with him.  I'll put it this way - at his asking price it would have been immoral to ask for even more of a discount. 

I wrote him a check on the spot, and promised to return today to pick it up.  Why today?  Because today was mechanical Monday, and I had to bring my truck and trailer into town anyway. 

So, this morning I loaded my summer tires into my little utility trailer and headed for big little city of Fairbanks.  The first stop was at Jiffy Lube, for an oil and filter change and general service of the truck.  That took longer than usual because the lube shop was short-handed, and their computer system was acting funky.  I'm not sure what the computer system has to do with changing the oil, squirting some grease into half a dozen zerks, checking the oil level in the transmission, transfer case and both differentials and all that, but apparently it does.  While the technicians were giving the dog truck the works I headed across the street to the Bakery Restaurant for some chow. 

The next stop was two different banks, to deposit some checks I had received.  Then it was off to Home Despot for some building and home maintenance supplies (another reason for the trailer).  From Home Despot I headed up College Road to Woodway to purchase replacement blades for the mowing deck of the lawn tractor.  The last time I mowed my lawn last fall I hit a stick, a really big stick, and bent tip of one of the blades nearly 90 degrees.  So, a pair of new blades was in order. 

The next stop was the Doyon Industrial Complex, an office building associated with my employer.  When I left work the other day I forgot that I will need a full uniform on Wednesday for the first day of my annual firearms training.  I had phoned my counterpart and asked him to send it to the office for me to pick up. 

From the office it was just a couple of blocks to the tire shop.  I arrived a bit earlier than the appointed time, but the bay was already empty and ready for me.  All four studded winter tires were removed and replaced with my four summer tires.  So, aside from some chronic issues that I may be able to afford to repair later this summer, the truck is ready for the season.  From the tire shop I dashed off to the four-wheeler seller's worksite to pick up my new used machine. 

I must say that over the past few weeks I've learned more about the four-wheeler market than I ever wanted to know.  For example, I learned that the major manufacturers such as Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Can-Am and so forth no longer produce very many mid-sized machines - wheelers with an engine size of 250 to 350 cc.  As a result, the market for used four-wheelers has exploded and the price on used mid-sized machines has sky-rocketed.  As an example, on Friday I looked at a 1996 350 cc machine that was being offered for the same price as a brand new 250 cc two-wheel drive model, and in my opinion BOTH were overpriced. 

After spending hours visiting just about every four-wheeler dealer in town I learned that none of the dealerships have more than three or 4 used machines, and those are mostly late model machines of 500 cc or higher, frequently MUCH higher. 

Now, I'm a guy and I really like horsepower.  In fact, I like a LOT of horsepower.  That noted, I use a four-wheeler primarily for training sled dogs.  In that context a lot of horsepower is never used, but the fuel it takes to support all those ponies IS used.  Big engines require big frames, so those machines are incredibly bulky, much too bulky to negotiate the skinny little trails I prefer to ride.  Finally, those big monster machines are expensive to the tune of $5,000.00 or more for used equipment.  Some of that equipment has been used pretty darned hard, too. 

So, finding a suitable mid-size machine with four-wheel drive that I could actually afford was like trying to find a virgin in a bordello, so an ad in the Sunday newspaper for a 2005 360 cc machine for only $3,000.00 caught my attention.  That is nearly $500.00 less than the 1996 model I had looked at just the other day. 

With a price that seemed too good to be believed, I went over that thing as thoroughly as I know how.  The previous owner is a truck mechanic, and the machine seems to have been meticulously maintained.  Heck, it only has 550 miles on the odometer and it also has a lot of very nice aftermarket accessories that only add to the value.  I asked the guy why he is selling it so cheaply, and he seemed startled by the question.  Apparently he hasn't been following the used four-wheeler market very closely but he has two teenage daughters and needs some money to provide vehicles for them.  Like I wrote earlier, I didn't even haggle over the asking price.  I wrote him a check, smiled as I shook his hand, and thanked him profusely.

New used four-wheeler

This is a 2005 Kawaski 360 Prairie 4X4.  It has some sweet "bells and whistles".  I REALLY like the passenger seat, and so will any handler who volunteers to help me run dogs.  It's much more comfortable than a pillow bungee-corded to the steel rack.  The machine has a high quality Warn winch so I can more easily drag it out of the mud when I get it stuck.  Note, that really is "when" rather than "if".  I'm good at getting these things stuck.  The original owner replaced the stock tires with more aggressive "mud" tires, and they have so little wear that the little nubbies are still on them.  For good measure he tossed in a set of tire chains for it.  That means I'm either less likely to get it stuck, or I'll get it good and stuck like even I have never done before.  

My old machine was a full-time four wheel drive set up.  This one can be run in the rider's choice of two wheel drive or four.  That means that when trail conditions allow it will be easier for the dogs to pull it with the transmission in neutral.  It also means that I don't need to burn as much fuel when traveling over easy terrain, and can reserve the four-wheel drive until I actually need it - generally to try to get unstuck. 

The transmission is similar to a snow machine transmission, but this machine has an electronic gizmo that allows you use the engine compression to control the speed going downhill or even when just slowing.  That gizmo means I can let the dogs pull against the compression of the engine rather than having to 'ride' the brakes.  It has serious brakes, too.  Hydraulic disks up front and a duel disk system in back.  Trust me, when running dogs you want really good brakes.  

It's an understatement to say I'm really pleased.  I'm actually rather amazed.  

Anyway, back to the original story.  I got the truck, trailer and all the associated stuff home and unloaded.  I didn't even have the four-wheeler unloaded when my friend Mike pulled in the driveway.  "I heard you bought a new four-wheeler." He said.  Seriously, that mukluk telegraph is FAST.  

So, it was a busy and very productive day.  I figured I'd best write about it now because I was up at about 4:30 this morning and I've been running hither the tither since about 8.  The dogs have been fed and the yard scooped, and I'm thinking that a light supper followed by an early bed time are probably in order.  I do hope your Monday was as productive as mine. 


  1. G'day Swanny - my Monday was nothing to write home about but your buy sounds really good - and it looks almost new. Sometimes things have to go your way - it's just the way life is. Regards, Terry

    PS - Saved your spring yard picture for my desktop - that is a good photo. Perhaps when you get a summer shot, I'll change to that :-)

  2. Happy to read you found a good ATV. The write ups on that model are really great! That was a $5200 machine new in 2005. When I was living in Anchorage from 1976-81 I bought a set of 4 extra rims for the 1971 Camaro and the 1976 GMC Suburban for the studded snow tires and would change them myself each Season. I was in my 30's then and jacking and tire changing was not a big deal. I don't think I would do it now!