Remote farming car?

That thread title doesn’t summarize my question especially well. You see, I’m a current warm weather city dwelling yuppie type who’s considering making an enormous lifestyle change. I want to move to the country outside of a small city in Maine, work some odd job in the city for basic financial coverage, and farm on my land. I’m trying to gradually transition into becoming as completely self sufficient as I can be. One of the first things I want to do is learn how to maintain my own vehicle. Right now the best I can do is change the oil and replace a serpentine belt. I want to eventually get to the point where I never have to take my car to a mechanic. I want to be able to do it all on my own. So I wanted to see if you guys could help me choose which car to start with. I need something that’s reliable, easy to work on, and not bogged down with a bunch of fancy electrical components. I want something that’s uncomplicated and will help me get a firm understanding of how to work on cars. Like I said above, I’ll be in Maine, so 4WD or AWD will be a must in the winter. Having stellar fuel economy isn’t absolutely necessary, but I’ll have a daily commute into the city, so a full size pickup gas guzzler isn’t ideal. I’d like it to have some towing capacity in case I ever need it, but the most I ever envision pulling is a small trailer with firewood and farming supplies. I was considering maybe a late 80s 4WD Toyota pickup, one of them with a 22RE engine? I hear those are pretty reliable if you stay on top of the timing belt issues, and their gas mileage isn’t totally depressing. I also considered some type of old Subaru, like a GL or an early model Outback, but I don’t expect those to have much towing strength. But I have no idea how hard any of these are to work on, especially for a complete beginner. What do you guys think?

I plan on getting an old beat up lawn-mower engine to disassemble and reassemble soon. I figure that can help me get some basic understand of how engines work. Then maybe I’ll work up to some type of dune buggy, so I can get the basic principles of transmissions and drive trains down. Good idea or bad?

I want to eventually get to the point where I never have to take my car to a mechanic.

Hope you have a lot of money, because tools are expensive. If you want to guarantee never having to take your car in, you’re going to need a full set of hand tools, air tools, a welder, a good floor jack, a minimum of 4 jack stands (a lift would actually be better), a tire changer, a wheel balancer, and an OBD2 reader. And that’s just the basic list. I have most of what I listed, and still have to take the car in from time to time because I don’t have the right tool.

As for what car to get, the Toyota pickup is a good choice provided you can find one in decent shape (doubtful) and provided you can find a source for parts, because old Toyota parts can be very expensive. Of course, you’ll probably have a hell of a time finding one in any shape, like I did when I was looking for one last year :wink:

The lawnmower engine probably won’t teach you a ton about car engines, and finding a dune buggy in Maine might be a challenge. I’d recommend picking up something like a 1990 Honda Civic. Easy to work on, lots of info available online (including the full service manual), most stuff is easy to get to, and most parts are still pretty cheap. I learned to wrench on one.

But, to wrap it around to the beginning of my reply, start saving for tools now. You’re about to enter into a lifetime of buying them :wink:

Don’t plan on anything. Find the nearest dealer or garage near where you will live and get on real good terms with them. That’s how we survive with cars and trucks in Maine a ways from the city. Buy and repair from and with them. Also, save your money, buy a good used tractor and use your spare time learning to work with it. You won’t be working any land with out one and be too self sufficient.

Good luck((you put me in mind of Mr.Douglas) forget the old junk,get a chevy truck,reliable,most anybody can fix them and you will learn,that things in the Outback arent always so satisfying.But as the others have said,start collecting tools and get a good generator and welder and start learning to subsist on a third of the electricity(when the Zombies come -hide)-Kevin

Being in isolation on your farm is NOT the way to learn how to repair a vehicle. There’s some you can learn on your own. But there’s a whole lot you can’t learn that way. Especially since you’re very novice. Knowing how a lawnmower works isn’t going to help you fix your 4wd transfercase if it craps out.

To do all your own work I think is unrealistic. Doing things like brakes…the occasional water pump or alternator you probably can do with some training.

Surely the Mother Earth News has some pointers for opting out of the rat race, @lxh039. And entering the “down to earth” lifestyle by choice will be much more enjoyable than doing so from desperate necessity.

Hard to think of a more radical change than rural Maine. Alaska, maybe?

I’m more concerned with you making through the winter than learning how to maintain your car. What experience do you have along these lines? Do you have enough money saved up to see you through 6 months of unemployment? Finding ‘odd jobs’ may not be very easy.

I agree with everyone that an old beater is not the way to start. And, by the way, the 22RE has a chain.

IMHO the best vehicle to get is a basic (no options, manual tranny) Toyota tacoma 2WD with a four cylinder engine. 4-banger RWD setups have huge maintainability advantages in that the components are far easier to access than V6 engines and/or transversely mounted engines. And there are only four of each cylinder-related component rather than six. My experience with Toyota pickups (I owned two, for a total of 24 years) is that they’re highly reliable and easily maintainable. Their reputation for being “bulletproof” is well earned. And parts are readily available anywhere. With good snow tires, good technique, and weight over the rear axle, you’ll go anywhere you want in Maine. I always did. Write back come fall and we’ll help you put that weight over the axle such that it’ll work and be safe.

It’s fantastic that you want to do all your own work…but unrealistic. A visit to a Harbor Freight Tools website (or store if you have one in your area) will be an eye-opener in the equipment you’d need, and they only cater to homeowners. Although a bubble balancer would at least do good enough to drive to a tire store on. It’s great to do everything you can, but it really is necessary to go to a shop on occasion…unless you have the facility and are willing to spend barrel loads of cash on equipment.

And remember that you’re going to need to save some cash for winter gear like a snowblower, shovels, winter wardrobe, snow clearing wardrobe, etc.

Write again come fall and we’ll help you winterize your vehicle.

Welcome in advance to New England.

Thanks for all the honest responses, guys. The truth is that I’ve always lived a pretty suburban lifestyle in warm climates, and my car knowledge is all theoretical. I know very little about the nuts and bolts realities of working on a car. So based on the advice I’m getting from all of you, I’m going to moderate my plans a bit, and take this a step at a time. My career is in library technical services, and I’m just going to scour job listings in the New England area, wait until I can find a job in my field out there, and when I move there I’ll live in the country and commute to wherever my job is. I won’t try to go straight from yuppie to rugged individualist, as that’s doomed to failure. I’ll start out by just raising a small garden and maybe some small amount of climate-appropriate livestock to get my footing in the lifestyle, but keep relying on my career as my primary income. Thanks for the link, Rod Knox. I figure it’ll probably be pretty helpful. I’ll start transitioning to more complex and dedicated homesteading as I get more of a feel for it.

On the car front; I’ll make sure to try and develop a good relationship with a mechanic when I get out there. The concept of doing it all 100% myself was born out of naivete, I suppose. I’d still like to get to a point where I can do at least 70% of the work on my car myself. I’ll start collecting tools now. What are the essentials? Which tools should everyone have in their home garage? I’m not loaded by any stretch of the imagination. My income level just barely gets me into the lower-middle class category. I still have to plan my finances just to make sure the rent is paid most months. So I don’t have a ton of money to throw around at the moment. The only tools I already own come from one of those basic cheap handtool kits. You know, basic socket wrenches, screwdrivers, a hammer, a tape measure. I have no concept of which tools I’ll need beyond that.

Right now I finance a 2013 Hyundai Accent SE as my daily driver. I’ll keep driving that for my daily commute when I get up there, just for the reliability and fuel efficiency, but I still want to get something used and cheap with AWD, for the occasions when I really really need it.

Even rural farmers rely on cooperation. You can’t do everything yourself, you can’t grow everything you eat, you can’t fix everything that brakes and you can’t make everything you need. That is why, even in the very earliest man, we lived in groups, not alone.

When you make this move, you will need to figure out what you can provide for the community that you live in and work within the community, otherwise you will fail.

Thanks, Keith. That’s probably a better way to look at it. I think I just need a balance. I feel like living in the city has made me TOO reliant on the trappings of society. The inclination to go be a bearded mountain hermit in Maine was an overreaction to this feeling of slavish reliance. I need to find something in between.

Which tools should everyone have in their home garage?

These are the fun questions to answer :wink: first off, toss out those cheap socket wrenches. They’re gonna break halfway through a job and infuriate you.

One important thing to remember is not to get seduced by the Snap-On truck. They’re great tools, but they’re also overpriced beyond belief. I only get Snap-On when they’re literally the only company that makes a tool I need, and that’s pretty rare. The exception to this is garage sales. A lot of times people will be selling stuff at insanely good prices. Start working garage/rummage sales, etc watching out for Snap-On, Matco, and Craftsman.

Here’s a list of tools I consider essential:

Hand tools:

A GOOD 1/2 inch drive and 3/8 inch drive socket wrench. Craftsman is fine (even the new, non-made-in-USA ones, despite what some will tell you). If you want to splurge on a 3rd socket wrench that will make you happy every time you use it, get a Stanley rotator ratchet for around 20 bucks. You can twist the handle back and forth to drive the ratchet head. Don’t use it to break bolts loose, but if you’re working in a tight area, being able to twist rather than trying to lever a ratchet around without hitting stuff is much easier.

A GOOD full set of metric and a full set of standard sockets. Cheap ones can break under too much torque or round off the bolts, both of which will infuriate you.

A good set of metric/standard deep-well sockets.

1/2 inch and 3/8 inch extenders, both short and long, for those hard to get at places. Also a u-joint for the socket wrench is nice, for reaching bolts that you cant go at straight on.

A clicker torque wrench from Harbor Freight. Cheap, just as accurate as the expensive ones, and necessary for a lot of engine work (head bolts, etc) and even just for rotating tires. Remember to store it at 0 foot/pounds so you don’t crap out the spring.

While you’re at Harbor Freight, pick up 3 or 4 magnetic parts trays. Much better than casting about under a car trying to find that bolt you put down and then kicked aside when you moved.

Also at Harbor Freight, get a telescoping magnet pen. When you drop a bolt somewhere in the engine bay, you just extend it and pick the bolt up with the end rather than trying to worm your fingers around in tight spaces.

A GOOD set of screwdrivers. Craftsman has a good one for around 40 bucks that has all you’ll ever need plus a storage case. Cheap screwdrivers strip screw heads and infuriate you.

A screwdriver magnetizer/demagnetizer. 99 cents or so. Makes it easier to install screws if they’re not constantly falling off the end of the screwdriver.

A thor hammer! Also known as a short-handled sledge hammer. You’ll use this to pound off rusted parts. A deadblow hammer also comes in handy.

A GOOD metric and standard wrench set - some bolts will be in spaces that are too narrow to get a socket wrench in.

Air tools:

A decent compressor. For your purposes, a 20 gallon one from Home Depot (or if there’s one in your area, a Sanborn one from Menards) will do fine. Try to avoid oil-less compressors. They’re too loud and will wear out faster.

At least a 20 foot air hose.

A quick release system. This lets you pop tools on and off the hose rather than screwing them in with fresh teflon tape each time.

A decent impact gun. Don’t get the cheapie $20 Coleman here. If you want to save some money, get the Earthquake one from Harbor Freight. You want something with some muscle to it.

Air sockets. Do not use regular sockets with an impact gun. They can shatter.

A tire chuck. For filling tires.

An air chisel. These come in handy for things like blasting frozen rotor screws off when you’re doing a brake job.

Ear protection. Chisels are loud.

Jack-related stuff:

A good floor jack. Costco sells a very* good Arcan 3.5 ton jack. If you’re not a member, Northern Tool has the same thing for something like 40 bucks more. Don’t cheap out here and get the little Home Depot special.

At least 4 high-quality jack stands rated for more than you think you will put on them. If your heaviest car weighs 2 tons, get at least 3 ton jack stands. Use them every time the car is in the air. Jacks cannot be trusted to hold the car, and if the jack fails while you’re under it, you’re very likely to die. Don’t even think about cheaping out on this one. I say at least 4 because sometimes you’ll have a car up on all 4 for a long term project, and your other car will break, and you need to fix it. 2 more come in handy there.

2 wheel chocks. Harbor Freight sells a good little metal folding set with rubber feet. Use these when jacking up one whole end of a car so that the other end doesn’t start to roll.

A creeper. This makes life a lot easier if you’re sliding under the car a lot. You can cheap out on this one if you want, but if you want a nice one that you don’t have to worry so much about your sleeves getting caught under the wheels, get a Bonester. That’s pretty expensive, though, and a $30 one from Harbor Freight or Home Depot would do you just fine.


An oil drain pan. Useful for catching all kinds of fluids and storing them for disposal.

A bag of Oil-Dri. It’s basically cat litter without the odor eliminators. Use it to soak up fluid spills that you did not catch with your drain pan.

A rolling magnetic pickup tool. Use it to find all the stuff you lost during your project.

A shop broom.

Lights. Lots of lights. A twin-headed shop light on a tripod ( like that)

An LED headband light. You can find them at Harbor Freight cheaply. Get a couple. You can never have enough light. Get the one that detaches from its headband and has a magnet on the back so you can stick it in the engine bay as a steady light.

Safety glasses. Lotta grit dropping into your eyes when you’re under a car.

Non-essential, but nice to have:

An OBDII reader. If you have an Android smartphone, you can get this on the cheap. Get a bluetooth OBD2 reader from Amazon for around 25 bucks. Then get Torque Pro from the app store for something like 5 bucks. You’ll have 90% of the features of a real reader that costs 100’s of dollars. This will allow you to read fault codes, which helps you diagnose problems.

An air ratchet. Basically like a hand ratchet, but air powered. Makes things go on and off faster.

A dremel with a flexible shaft extension. Very handy for cutting and grinding things.

A pop rivet gun. This is a really cheap tool that you can use to fasten almost anything to almost anything else. You just drill a hole, stick a pop rivet in it, and squeeze the tool for a solid connection. I like these better than nuts and bolts in many applications because nuts and bolts can vibrate loose without a lock washer or locktite. Pop rivets won’t come loose unless you drill them out.

A tool chest to hold all that crap. You will probably eventually want a big rolling tool chest, because keeping all that stuff in small tool boxes is untidy and makes it hard to find things. Hold off getting one until you get to Maine - a good one is very heavy and tends to cost a lot of money to move. I personally recommend Masterforce, as it’s almost as good as Snap-On, but $800 will buy you what you’d pay at least 5 grand to Snap-On for. You might not be able to get that where you live, though. It’s a Menards exclusive brand. I recommend against Craftsman. They used to be really good, but they’re making them much cheaper now and they’re overpriced junk.

A rolling cart so you don’t have to keep pacing back and forth between the car and the tool box.

A work bench with a vise.

A drill with good bits.

Being responsible for a home/homestead will bring on a never ending flood of issues requiring attention from unclogging drains and sewers, thawing frozen pipes, upkeep on whatever heating system is used, repair, upkeep and operation of farm equipment, care and feeding of livestock, etc, ad nauseum. Have you ever cooked a chicken that you caught in the yard an hour earlier? How about a goat? Will you name your farm Green Acres?

I don’t think you will be looking for projects to do, they will be looking for you. Good luck.

I have some friends here in Maine who most would say, live out in the sticks. The nearest dealer is 20 miles away is good and fair and sells GM cars. Most in the area including my friend buy GM cars. Everyone can obviously work on Toyotas there but for convenience, especially in old work trucks like an 80s vehicle you need repaired NOW, I would not stray too far from the norm.

I like Toyota trucks( all 6 of them ) but I would own what the locals own and did when I lived nearer a Ford dealer which was owned by a trusted, honest man and what the local mechanics felt best about repairing and getting parts for. Right now, the nearest dealer just happens to be a Toyota dealer with a decent reputation. I would have no problem owning other makes if the situation were different. You can really over spend in the life time of a car on both repair costs and time when you buy one you really want at the expense of local. Sorry; I would nix the old Toyota pick up idea till I found out where I was going to live. Those of you who have actually lived in rural Maine may know what I’m talking about. For example, the nearest BMW dealer is over a 100 miles a way. Don’t buy a new one and expect waranty work or parts to be easily attainable or very convenient. Besides, they make terrible work trucks. ;=)

Besides, you really don’t have to move very far from a town or city to be independent and secluded. You can live in rural Maine and still be just 15 to 20 minutes from Bangor for example. It’s just a matter of location and you can live secluded or gregarioulsy anywhere. It’s your choice as it is most places.

Knowing that the vehicle you’ll be relying on is a 2013 Accent, a used pickup to learn on sounds far more reasonable. I’lll keep my recommendation for a 2WD 4-banger Toyota without options. My last one had 338,000 miles on it when it got totalled in an accident…and it had never had any major work and only used a quart of oil about every 1200 miles. Those vehicles are simplicity defined. And dyrable.

Whatever you choose, make sure it gets a thorough checkup by a reputable mechanic.

A 68 camaro is what I learned on, drove it down many a dirt back roads. Snow tires in the winter, ran it like the general lee.

@lxh039, if you are looking for something in between, you can almost certainly find it within two or three hours of where you live now. If you live near DC/Baltimore/Philadelphia, central PA, far western MD, northern VA (Winchester area, not Arlington), WVa, are all remote enough to fill the bill and are not nearly as cold as Maine.

JT is right -but dont let that lull you into complacency,a below zero night is a below zero night no matter where you live.
My advice to you is this(I’ve seen a lot fail at this even around here) there s this cat named Salatin who lives in Swoope,VA,for a fee He will apprentice you and get you started on the rudiments of what you desire,google Polyface Farms or Salad Bar beef and see if you cant find Mr Salatin(you cant E-MAIL him) but he has a farm store and you can visit him at his Farm in Swoope and by the way there is a fairly new book by a couple from NYC ,I believe) who actually bought a farm in Swoope and tried this lifestyle the title is"see you in a hundred years" and try the folks from “mother earth news” in NC.Believe me the country is a nice place to live if you have plenty of money(I’m a native so I dont count-used to it and all) but others have made it on a shoestring and never looked back-Kevin

All I can say is whether or not you take your car to a mechanic, if you farm anything bigger than for your own subsistence, you will have farm equipment that constantly needs maintenance and repair. So you will learn about how things function whether you want to or not if you wish to survive and prosper. A good set of tools is going to be a must. If all else fails, maybe you could write about your experiences.

You know, you don’t really need to do the all or nothing approach. You could get a house in a rural area with a few acres and try it out before you pull the plug on everything. The grass is not always greener, and if this is a mid-life crisis thing, almost anything would be cheaper than a radical change like this. You can always live in a rural area without changing everything about your life. If you want to learn about cars, maybe some auto mechanics courses would be useful too.

And simple is nice, but unless you’re only ever going to work on cars or equipment made before 1979 or so, you should learn about how computer controls and engine management systems work. While you don’t have to embrace the tech with open arms, it would be good to familiarize yourself with it as part of your education. You can learn a lot working on an old Chevy smallblock with points ignition and a carburetor, but a lot of what you learn isn’t going to apply to troubleshooting and repairing a modern car.

Read the book 40 acres and a fool. Living in the country is ok. Pros and cons, some of the nicest people I have met have been in the city, some of the worst have been in the country. But It evens out. Just don’t fall into the folk/country song rose colored glasses view of the country.

Its not all about drinking beer and saying ahh shucks.

Around here way out in the country you have some people that are nice, great people. (thats where I fit in). These are about 40% of the people.

Then you have the meth heads and alcoholics that live in dilapidated trailers and cook meth and are drunk all of the time. The next 40%

Then you have the people who live out in the country and have palatial mansions, they tend to be snooty and arrogant. The 15%

The last 5% are the absolute nut cases, they are complete recluses and you better not bother them. I had a guy that lived way back in the country, to get to his property you had to walk in because he made it so to get to the driveway you needed a ford ranger 4x4, or something with the same track. He had rails you he removed so once he drove in, no other vehicle could get in.
I was trying to get him to let us come back and replace his electrical transformer with a new non-pcb one. He was not friendly and very agitated.
The are immediately around the house was strewn with junk, it was nasty. It was a shame, his parents had money and the property used to be beautiful, then they died and he got it and its trashed.

But thats Indiana, ME may be better. Just don’t make a rash decision.