Thursday, January 23, 2020



I was all prepared to start a rather informative and historically accurate post about what we Yanks liked to call "the Hessians" during the American Revolution, even started the research, then real life intervened.

Had my oil changed in Big Girl** on Saturday last, a periodic maintenance thing which I pay for rather than do myself, after all it boosts the economy and provides jobs. 'Murica...

Anyhoo. Rather than tell me that I had an oil leak, the employees of the place where I get my oil changed, let me know via emailed invoice that I had an oil leak. Which I checked a couple of days after the fact.


Nothing major I thought, get it checked, probably a bad gasket, I mean Big Girl is fifteen years old. Well, it wasn't major, but a lot of minor things often can add up to "Whoa, it's gonna cost how much?"

Okay, so in 2018 I dropped about three grand on Big Girl's exhaust system, it had suffered from age and salt air long enough. Now according to Sarge-logic, cars need to be replaced when the cost of maintenance exceeds the cost of a new vehicle. As the cost of a new vehicle (one that I would want and drive, I ain't no cheap sumbitch, mind you) would probably run five to six grand a year in car payments, three grand did not exceed my "time for a new car" threshold.

Nor does this excursion into auto repair Hell. (Well, truth be told, more like auto repair heck, doesn't even qualify as Hell, nor Purgatory, the latter not being a thing in Protestantville.) Still and all, I'd rather not have to pay over a grand for a bunch of minor problems which "all together now" produce a large (ish) bill.

But I will. I really, really, really like this vehicle. And they don't make them anymore.

No, I don't work on my own car. I have neither the inclination, tools, nor patience to do such a thing. Not to mention an appalling lack of mechanical aptitude for such things and an almost pathological dislike of getting my hands dirty. Spent some few years doing that, didn't care for it. Besides which paying someone else to do it boosts the economy, creates jobs, etc., etc.

Yes, I do use the local dealership where the vehicle was purchased, they know what they are doing and they have earned my trust. Some of the local "I know a guy" mechanics demonstrated a complete lack of aptitude and a rather lackadaisical work ethic so I don't go to them anymore. Color me crazy I dunno.

At this point in the post, feel free to chime in with your own automotive horror stories, advice, and your "I've worked on my own car since I was five" stories. I don't mind.

As for me? I've gotta write a check. Then explain Sarge-logic on car buying to The Missus Herself once again. No doubt I will come away from that looking like this -

But I'll get over it...

* With apologies to the Donovans of Castle Argghhh...
** My 2005 Honda Element


  1. Guess I am the first to make a comment here.

    That’s what you get for having insomniac as your audience. I used to do a lot of work myself on my cars. There’s a certain pride you have knowing you did it.

    But just lately having looked at 70 years old just around the corner I’m thinking take it to my friend

    He knows what he’s doing

    He has the tools

    I think the last time I really did something on my car I changed the motor mounts on my old SL.

    Now motor mounts by themselves are very simple. One bolt from the top and two from the bottom and they hold the engine on each side

    But when you’re laying on your back with the car on jackstands and you’re trying to move all of this crap on the engine out of the way…

    It took me a week to do this. I was cursing and saying why am I bothering with this?

    That’s why my friend charges $900 for the job

    It’s the crap in the way

    Got an interesting automotive story involving my friends Mercedes ZBenz ML500

    it had been plagued with something scary.

    Periodically the instrument panel which is all electronic would go haywire with lights flashing. Speedometer quit working. Transmission may have stopped shifting.

    On my advice they take it to my good friend number two, who is a service writer at a major dealership. Knowing a good service writer means all the difference between a happy experience in a terrible one at the same dealership. Because at least the ones that I’ve known all have their own circle of mechanics at work with them

    So anyway friend number two says the car needs one of two electronic components: neither of which are available

    So imagine that you have a car virtually undrivable and you have to just throw it away

    I was all ready to write a letter to Mercedes-Benz USA and my friend asked me for one more try

    So I decided to take it to friend number one whom I have known for 30 years. I had recommended friend number two for that car because he has all the latest training, top-notch mechanics, and even more importantly all the diagnostic software.

    And he too said it might be one of two things

    Battery was old. And there’s a part that seems to be unique to semi old Mercedes-a brake light switch

    The switch is hooked up to your brake pedal and it’s a simple 15 or $20 device

    Only after the brake pedal has been pushed thousands of times the switch can lose its connectivity and when it does you get weird inexplicable electrical issues

    So it could be that.

    Now the battery is interesting on modern electronic cars

    That’s any car 1996 and newer.

    When the battery is old and under demand it can go below 12 V output and when it goes below 12 V output, the computers don’t like it

    So anyway friend number one has replaced both of these and said that it may be fixed

    He’s going to drive it around for a while before releasing it

    So we go from you can’t do anything-throw it away to a simple battery replacement and brake light switch.

    What was the cause of the oil leak?

    Sometimes they’re very simple-just a valve cover gasket

    The rubber gets hot after repeated start stop cycles over the years and brittle

    Oil seeps through

    Don’t give up on the old girl

    Now maybe I can get to sleep but I doubt it

    1. You have to be tired after typing all of that!

      Gaskets get old, have a bit of weather in the teens (~14°) and they contract, then leak.

      She's old but she runs pretty good, I intend to keep her for as long as I can.

    2. My dental hygienist has an Element and she says out here (Sacramento) they are red-hot. People always want to buy it. That leak shouldn't be too hard to find.

    3. "So imagine that you have a car virtually undrivable and you have to just throw it away."

      I was witness to a situation back sometime in the 90's. Forgive me as I have forgotten some of the exact details. It involved a used Dodge full size pickup in Kalifornia. GM and Ford had long since gone to alternators with internal voltage regulators. On this particular model pickup (and perhaps other models) Dodge had done away with the external fire wall mounted regulator and had instead incorporated that function into CPU. And it had quit.

      It was a simple fix to wire in the old style external regulator, and the pickup would run fine. Except that the CPU wasn't happy because there was no signal from the onboard (dead) regulator, so the check engine light stayed on. Check engine light stays on, no pass smog (emissions) check. No pass smog check, no registration. Only fix is to buy new CPU. That pickup sat for a long time before they towed off somewhere.

    4. And a new CPU is NOT cheap. DAMHIK (Proud FORMER Dodge owner here.)

  2. I gave up on working on vehicles when I got rid of my last Jeep YJ about 10 years ago, I am more paper pusher than mechanically inclined and I told the wife when the Jeep (Just Empty Every Pocket) vehicle left the yard that I was done doing the work. I might do some very minor jobs that take 10-15 minutes, but if it goes beyond that, I let the local dealership where we bought one vehicle do it or the repair shop we have used since I moved here 20 years ago. Although my beloved Ford Ranger is getting near the end of reliability vs cost and will probably be replaced with another 4WD truck after this winter. Even the wife is ready to get me a new truck, me I ain't quite ready, but one more big repair bill and I will start the gotta buy a new vehicle research process, to see how bad the local dealerships are going to try to screw me over in the pricing. :-)

  3. Speaking of oil leaks.

    We have a pair of Subaru Foresters and they are both blue. (I like blue.)
    A couple of years ago the '07 developed a valve cover oil leak on the port side just shy of when it was ten years old.
    If you didn't know, the Subaru engines have extremely limited space to do the valve cover gasket, because of their engine design.

    I was retired, adequately healthy, have all the needed tools, and I'm good with my hands.
    A trip to YouTube walked me through the issues and perils of the job, so I began.
    Removing the valve cover gasket is doable, and you can loosen the motor mounts, carefully raise the engine, and then wiggle the cover out from where it's between the head, and the fender.
    Removing the port valve cover was challenging, but I got the job done.
    The starboard cover was a different story.
    Warning! Gearhead details follow!
    On the starboard side, one of the valve cover bolts was almost inaccessible, and that bolt was directly above part of the exhaust piping and thus subject to a cycle of cold and heat. Adding in the corrosion of the salt belt, the head of the bolt wasn't in the bet of shape.
    I used copious amounts of penetrating fluid, a six point socket of the correct size, and promptly rounded off the bolt head.
    The Subaru forums reported that this is common problem with this particular bolt location, but they didn't offer much insight into removing the bolt.
    Suggestions ranged from removing the engine, to welding a nut on top of the rounded off bolt head.
    Hmm. Time to use my lifetime's experience in fixing stuff, and get creative.
    I knew I could improve the access by removing the exhaust system.
    That only required grinding off the rusted nuts and bolts that held the heat shield in place.
    Removing the exhaust also needed some special sockets for the oxygen sensors, but I believe in the saying, "He who dies with the most tools is the winner." And buying tools is a good thing.
    And removing the exhaust system means removing the exhaust manifolds.
    All the improved access to the bolt, but I still could not get the bolt to turn.
    The only thing left to do was to grind the head of the bolt off, then remove the valve cover, then I could grab the bolt body with locking pliers and remove the bolt.
    And I could not see the bolt head, so all the grinding had to be done by feel and I accepted that there would be some damage to he valve cover during the grinding.
    Note. If you are grinding and there are sparks, then you are grinding the bolt, if the sparks stop, then you are grinding the aluminum valve cover gasket.
    I used an inspection mirror to check my progress, and when the bolt head was gone I did remove the valve cover and get the stub of the bolt out.
    I did indeed question the parentage of the Subaru engineers in very Anglo Saxon terms.
    I'd ordered the various replacement parts that I needed, and repaired the damage to the valve cover by taking it to the basement, clamping the valve cover into the small milling machine, and milling the damaged area until the surface was flat.
    Then I took measurements and used the metal working lathe to make a spacer that replaced the metal I'd machined away.
    Reversing the process went smoothly, not forgetting that the anti-seize compound for the oxygen sensors had to be a special type, and eventually the job was done.
    I'm not being arrogant when I say that I'm very good with my hands, and that this simple oil leak was hugely challenging to repair.

    This job was a perfect example of things spiraling madly out of control, and why sometimes you should just pay to have it repaired.

    (Sarge. I sent you photos of the repair.)

    1. I have drawn the line at about 1999 as the model year beyond which I don't offer field support. They are engineered to be difficult to fix.

      And kudos on the machine shop. I, too, have heavy iron affliction.

    2. John - You just described why I pay people to do these things. I don't have that type of patience.

    3. STxAR - When I had a '68 VW Beetle, I worked on it. When I had a '74 Beetle, I did some of the work (they were getting more complicated). After about '83, I started paying someone else to do the work. Most Americans are enamored of the motor vehicle, I'm not. It's a mode of transportation, that's it. Lots of folks enjoy working on cars, I don't. Different strokes I guess.

    4. STxAR. Small machine shop, 9x19 Grizzly lathe, and a mini-mill that matches the lathe. My Dad was a real machinist, and I can do well enough. The size of the shop is dictated by space constraints, and also that I want to stay happily married for many more years. :)

      Sarge. Depending on the job, and my desire to do the job, I have near infinite patience. Other times my patience is so short that no known time interval can measure it.
      I enjoy working with my hands, and unlike working in the shipyard, most parts of the car do not require large cranes to move them.

    5. John - Saw the photos, you're a better man that I, patience-wise at any rate!

    6. If I can ever get a few minutes to clean up, come on over.... There may even be a place to sit someday...

  4. I'm in the middle of a car fixing tango right now. My 99 Yukon has this moan that increases with speed. I knew the front axles were going bad when they started popping, so axles and new hubs were ordered and replaced. The rear axles are out now and waiting on parts. Got the bearings pulled and new ones in.

    I really enjoy working on things. Always have. It's a simple pleasure. [okay this bearing isn't budging, a little heat from the torch.... okay, thin section, just a little heat will do it..... okay it's moving, clean the area, good, reinstall should go easy with some heat, and done. Now the seal, and done] I really get a sense of satisfaction when I'm doing. I'm wired that way.

    Everyone has a core hobby, or competency (at least I hope so). I grew up working on bikes and motors and whatever else I could find. Dad made me help with his tuneups and oil changes. That led to cars, trucks, and tractors. My first big purchase after high school was a toolbox and some shiny new Craftsman tools (still Made in USA when I got those). Dad taught me the value of having good tools by not having any good tools. For me, "if the woman can't find you handsome, she should at least find you handy."

    I did come to a realization the other day. If I can find a decent car on Craigslist, and it's cheaper than a $500/month car payment for it's projected lifetime, then it's a deal. My car payment for the Yukon is closing in on 45 dollars a month since I bought it 9 years ago.

    So what if the hinges on my billfold are rusty??

    1. "Everyone has a core hobby" - bingo, STxAR has bingo!

      Your work on cars sounds like the way I approach history. A mention of a pilot KIA, I chase it down until I know the name and a little about the pilot. Something happened during a battle, I chase it down. History is my core hobby, more like an obsession really.

    2. I don't trust men that are hobby-less.

    3. They're usually boring as Hell.

    4. Core hobby. Well, it's nice to know I'm not boring.

      You know those 1000 piece picture puzzles? Yeah, just no. I have no patience for them. Whats the point? Picture's already on the box. Just cut the box top and frame that.

      However, put me at my work bench with a gun that needs some TLC and it's game on (I know. Shocker, that). A rusty dusty old Winchester lever gun may not have 1000 pieces, but I will know just how many in short order, and it will keep me happily occupied for hours.

    5. Not only do you have a hobby, you have a very useful hobby.

  5. I knew exactly what made my 1947 INTERNATIONAL KB-1 pickup, my 1967 Mustang Fastback, my 1972 Opel Manta, and my 1972 AMC Matador go down the road. Why my 2006 F-150 does, I have not the faintest. I suspect the engine shaped black thing under the hood, but I would not bet on it.

  6. Once upon a time I dealt with the minor issues of automotive maintenance.
    Then, late in the last century, I said to myself, “I don’t have time for this!”
    Now, if only Honda would stop recalling the Accord for airbag replacement, I would be very happy.

    1. I feel your pain vis-a-vis airbag replacement. Toyota and Honda both had one recently.

    2. Defective inflaters from their supplier. Honda got burned TWICE by having to recall some of the recalls to replace the inflater again.

  7. Darn, I had hoped from the title that there were rumors that Donovan's Castle Argghhh was open again.

    But, all I get are scary stories about unreliable vehicles.

    Like others, I fiddled and fixed my '68 VW beetle and loved it for 135K miles until Ohio salt ate it up. Survived a Fix Or Repair Daily product with bad memories, then a couple of Dodge minivans with annoyances. Had a couple of second hand Toyotas during those times which were extremely reliable. Lately have been delighted with Toyota minivans, the first lasting 260K miles with nothing but routine service, and the current one is over 110K with no problems. I think I will stick with the Toyotas, and let the professionals fiddle with the mysterious mechanical and electrical stuff, if ever needed.
    John Blackshoe.

    1. Toyotas are awfully reliable, The Missus Herself has one.

  8. I'm with you on keeping a vehicle until it is unreliable. Also with the pay someone to fix them when needed. One of the first people I met when we moved here was the Maintenance Chief at the Dodge dealership. Good old boy descended from one of the original German families that settled here. But, and it's an important but, he knew what he was doing, and made sure the folks that worked for him did also. His brother, who is a schmuck, was head of sales. We had a Dodge Minivan at the time, hence how we met. Bought a Durango from them, didn't like the experience, but he handled the maintenance. When Mrs J sold my GMC truck out from under me, I bought a Ford F-150 from a Dealer in San Antonio. Brought it to my friend for first oil change and checkup. His brother came out and started in on why did I buy a Ford? My Friend told him basically to shut up and color. I continued to bring my vehicle to them until he passed away last year. Haven't found an adequate replacement yet. The local Ford dealer, looks askance at the dealership info when I bring it in. "I told you how much I was going to spend on the truck, you didn't come close. These folks did." Keeping the bucks local is a good policy, but it works both ways.

    1. True, if they want to "keep it local..." Don't screw the locals.

  9. My catch-all phrase: The trick is knowing when to call the plumber.

    In my younger days, I did a lot of my own mods and maintenance. My first car was a used '64 Mercury Comet surplussed out by the state of California, followed by a used '69 BMW 2002, and a well used Ford Courier as back up.

    These days, not so much. Battery died in my 2001 Silverado a few months ago, so I changed that out. Side note--it was a NAPA battery that lasted almost six years. Truck runs great so I plan to keep it. Last year I drove it less than 3000 miles.
    The lift gate struts on our Chrysler van died, so I replaced them as well.

    You just never know. Google and YouTube are your friends. Last spring we were driving home at night and went through a cloud burst on the freeway. Windows fogged, so had to turn on the defroster. Got home, and passenger side front carpet soaking wet. Nice. Horror visions in my head of possible rusted out under body, bad windshield or door seal, etc. Some old towels and a breezy day dry things out. Cannot find source of leak. Motoring around town in the rain, no problem.

    A few months later, weather warms up, and we drive a few hours on the freeway with the A/C on. Sunny day, floor is soaked again. Hmm. Turns out, there is a rubber drain tube for the A/C that sticks out of the firewall.

    Like all things rubber, it gets old and eventually falls off. Then, the draft created by freeway speeds shoves the condensation from the A/C back through the firewall into the passenger compartment. So I get my flashlight and go raise the hood. Oh look, there's where is goes--and I can even get my hand in there. Got the part, five minute fix. Got lucky on that one.

    1. Had a Hyundai with a bad windshield seal, in it's defense it lasted for nine years. Traded her in not long after discovering why that side of the car always got wet in a rain storm!

    2. That's where you accidentally hit it with a 'fallen' tree branch, call USAA and then sit back and enjoy the nice windshield replacement people.

      And USAA won't jack your rates up, not over a windshield.

      This is, obviously, not what you should really do, as that is insurance fraud and such. But....

    3. It was the Hyundai's time, the leaking seal was just it's way of telling us that. The progeny bought her in high school, we had that car for ten years. It did its job.

  10. "Will maintenance this year exceed a car payment for a replacement" has basically been my mantra through the years. The last mini-van I had got traded in when we got pretty sure we would be looking at a new transmission.

    How language changes through the years. Back in the day when most American males had (or claimed to have) expertise in maintaining motor vehicles, "I blew the tranny in my car" had a much different meaning than it does now.

  11. In defense of auto repair shops ($120 hour labor charge) the amount of taxes, fees (can't call them taxes, no not allowed), and other operating costs mean many shops are $1,000 in the red every morning when they turn the lights on.

    As age kicks my %^&*, I do less of my own work. I've never been a good mechanic but have an unbeatable hourly rate.

    1. I've never been a good mechanic either, I learned that early on.

    2. I don't mind spending money at a good shop nearly as much as spending money at just a passable shop. Still mind it, but at least I know the job will get done right.

    3. Spend it at a "passable" shop, you might get to spend it twice for the same job. DAMHIK

  12. I've been working on cars and trucks since I was 5. I never got good at it. I learned some good lessons along the way. Have the right tools for the job. Don't take advice from people who've never been anywhere or done anything but watch a lot of tee-vee, u2be, and can kinda-sorta peck out a few words into a search engine. There's a difference between a static leak and a dynamic leak. It's a very bad sign when they mysteriously stop leaking. When it comes to paying for service, trust but verify, and forgive but remember.

    Now when it comes to building and maintaining barbed wire fence, I have no peer.

    1. Like when a helicopter stops leaking hydraulic fluid - not a good thing. (Means you're out of fluid.)

      You're my go to guy for advice if I ever need to build/repair a barbed wire fence. Which will probably be never...

      That last bit is a great piece of advice.

    2. I've learned to never say never. PA, how much do you charge for pasture calls?

    3. Yeah, I'm betting you might have a fence or two in your future.

    4. The Army has a neat truck-mounted wire stretcher, does 2-4 strands at a time. Straight wire and coil wire.

      They come up occasionally on surplus sales.

    5. I think I'll stick with trying to recruit PA. While we've been discussing why NOT to buy a used vehicle, we haven't talked about the wisdom of buying a used Combat vehicle. Unless, of course, it comes with a turret mounted quad .50's, then we might have a deal.

    6. Juvat, you buy the materials and throw in a guided tour at the Nimitz Museum and the labor is free. I'm only a few hours (for this part of the country) north of ya'll and I do have a Ph.D. (Posthole Digger). I can skirt Oklahoma and come in through Texline, thereby avoiding the immigration checkpoint at Kerrick.

    7. Blog posts will be expected if this comes to pass!

    8. Did I just hear Chant party at Juvat's house?

    9. PHD for the Bobcat, or the old fashioned manual ones?

    10. Sarge/

      Although before my time, old hands claimed the old F-89D Northrupt Scorpion dripped hydraulic fluid so copiously that standard pre-flt included a drip jar/gauge for go-no-go based on "normal" drip-rate. lol

    11. Scott - Good question. (I'll betcha the answer is "both.")

    12. Virgil - Damn! There's a confidence booster.

  13. Being a Honda it is probably still reliable, but being 15 years old things do tend to wear out. However, replacing them still cheaper than a new vehicle with higher insurance payments and such. If you are tired of that process though, maybe look into a certified used car?

    1. I stopped buying used cars forty years ago. It might be a flaw in my character, it might have to do with having been burned more than once.

      Big Girl still has a few good years left in her. [Knock on wood]

  14. I spent a lot of time wrenching on my cars over the years, at my dad’s place, hanging out, swearing, hurting ourselves, the whole thing. Lately he’s been slowing down a lot, and it’s not *fun* anymore, which is part of the reason I bought a new car last summer.

    Oh, and also, the STUPID, CURSED fuel saving displacement-on-demand mechanism failed again, causing *another* stuck lifter (which on an LS motor is a heads-off deal) and there was no way paying to have it fixed made any sense at all.

    Look, if I gave a $&@“ about fuel economy, would I have bought a car with a V8? Why, GM, why?! (It’s actually the government’s fault, with CAFE and the like, they have to eke out every mpg they can get, across the whole fleet. So thanks, uncle sam, for killing my sweet ride. And also cleveland winters for the rust, but meh. I prefer blaming human villains.)

    1. The government is responsible for a number of BAD IDEAS since, oh, I'm guessing 1775.

    2. It *was* one of these, to be precise, same color and everything.

    3. I really like that shade of blue.

    4. You can really lay all the stupidity of gas mileage and small-block engines on the State of California.

  15. My boss *had* an Element, until some local hoodlums stole it, used it in a bank robbery, and then SET IT ON FIRE before hopping in the getaway car...

  16. My previous vehicle, a 96 GMC Safari, I rode almost into the ground. Circumstances came about, had money in hand, had need to move lots of stuff as was getting ready to change quarters, drove semi-dead van to get new quarters, drove home, van running really bad. Say, "Aw, fudge it." Set criteria. Big rear. Must be able to allow direct transfer from wife's wheels to passenger seat. Must take in wife's wheels, with room for dog and dogbed and way to keep wife's wheels from coming forward. Lower bumper would help.

    So... No full-sized vans. (I really like vans. If I got a pickup truck I'd be forced to put a camper shell on it, and by that time, why not buy a van.

    So... Wife's wheels is this high by this wide by this long, add room for dog means... one of those euro-styled small panel vans.

    Hit the internet, look around, local places that all have shortened name for big lizard in them don't have what I want. But... one town north, at a dealership named for some place in New Mexico, they... A. Had what I may want. B. It's new enough to still have warranty. C. Price I want. D. Has A/C.

    Take wheezing van up there, look at white van of Dodge Ram Promaster City variety. Freak sales lady out as I whip out... a tape measure. Curb height, seat height, interior height, rear door width, all look good. Interior cargo length looks good. Hey, a door on both sides of the cargo area, neat. Hey, a storage shelf above the windshield due to high roof height, neat. A/C, wheels, price. Okay, dicker. Dicker goes good. How much for old van in trade in? Get look of horror from sales lady. She goes to manager... I think I just queered the deal. Nope, $750 off - still better than paying tow bill to junk yard. Say yes, but. Go home, clear with wife, remove all personal carp and other things out of van, drive it back up, an hour later, already called USAA and got insurance, the car place transferred the tags, now got new wheels that are reliable.

    Haven't regretted it yet.

    Except when the battery died. Then I looked under the hood and some yog-soggothish plastic monstrosity was copulating with the my now almost dead battery. So had to take it to a local shop because I had no friggin clue as to how to beat the yog-soggothish plastic monstrosity off the old battery so I could give it a new battery to chew on. Asking didn't work. Offering it a fine selection of AA and AAA batteries didn't work. No obvious or semi-obvious nuts or bolts to loosen and lose appeared. Nope. Gotta go to mechanic.

    I have other tales of eldritch horrors involving cars. I'll just mention I kept a '91 Chrysler Imperial on the road far past the time the wiring harness, which caught fire every time you turned on the headlights, should have killed that K-car piece of garbage.

    I can wrench on the van. But... Why? I bought extended warranty and all that. Rather have them do the work than me do the work.

    1. With me, if the price is right, I'd always rather have someone else do the work. I am lazy. I am Olympic-class lazy.

      No brag, just fact.

    2. I can, possibly, do the work. But I don't have a guy who drives to the parts house, I don't have a lift, I don't have air-powered tools, a well-lit shop with huge fans to move air and chase mosquitoes away, an extra set of hands or three, a selection of diagnostic equipments for everything, and so forth and so on.

      I mean, yes, I can replace starters, gaskets and all that. But it sucks if I don't have access to a vehicle to go to the store every time I break something or need something.

      Like, well, starters or alternators. The auto-parts-chain store has a machine that checks if said starter or alternator works and is in spec. Except it doesn't work. Because starters and alternators don't really show if they're Tango Uniform unless they're under a load, which you can tell if you have specialized machines that are much more expensive or old school machines like you find at that dedicated starter or alternator place. You know, that dingy building in the industrial plaza that has no lobby, is kinda grungy, and the 'sales counter' looks like it was salvaged from a garbage dump. I know this from having to work on said 91 Chrysler Imperial POS.

      Yeah, rather pay someone else to do it. I know I can. With the diagrams, with the parts, I can even fix most modern cars.

      But... I don't want to.

  17. There are these words I know. I seldom use them.

    77 VW bus. I could fix anything on it. Tune it. Make it sing. It was in 78 they came out with the hydraulic lifters, the basetsrs. One no longer had to run the rack every 3000 miles. Did I mention what complete baetards they were?

    I don't plan to buy a new car. ever.

    vw 2001 jetta. kind of like my dad's 1996 toyota. They keep running damn them! I do miss the bmw though but I was foolish and traded it for to make the wife happy.

    1. Had an '83 Jetta, I loved that car. So much that when he crapped out (I always referred to my German cars as "he") I bought another Jetta. The '91 was a real horror show, assembled in Mexico. Poorly. It went to Germany with us, it didn't come home.

      Ah, the things we do for love...

  18. I like older vehicle and I do like wrenching on cars, hey I work on millions of dollars of airplanes, what problem is a car, but I am aware of my limitations, youtube is great!, we call it "youtube University". If you have a problem, chances is that someone has already had it and posted a "fixit" on youtube. My present truck is a 1999 F150 Lariat, I am the 3rd owner, I know all the quirks of the truck and a couple quibbles(Going to have to take the back glass off this spring and deal with a small leak. Sealer don't seal well in the cold, but Anyway I had an alternator failure and it dropped below 12 volts and ran the battery down while I was on a scout event..well here is the story on my blog... Repairs are a lot cheaper than a new car note, tax, and insurance. As long as Big Girl runs, it is far cheaper to deal with the occasional repair than the note.

  19. These days I get my “glad it’s not me” jollies by reading the r/Justrolledintotheshop subreddit, because it’s pictures of terrible things that happened to cars from abuse, neglect, failure, poor design, etc... because it’s funny when it happens to *someone else*.

    1. Always!

      (But karma is a bitch, so don't laugh too hard.)

  20. I used to be able to do the work - heck, have built high performance V-8s from a collection of parts, then run them down the track and on the street (No, officer - we were NOT racing! it was just a coincidence we were both exceeding the limit by the amount you are citing us for - and when was the last time you calibrated your radar gun?)

    But the vehicles today, especially WRT engine management, are way beyond my capabilities. Kinda frustrating to be driving a black box. On a related note, seems like farmers are also frustrated by the lack of ability to work on modern farm equipment. Was reading the other day how there is a very robust market for used tractors from the age when working on them was possible and a lot more economical. Makes the cynic in me think that part of the plan is to make people reliant on factory service ... I know in the instrument company I worked for, service was a HUGE part of the business' revenue. I always thought a good strategy would be to just make things that didn't break very often - like TV's. The executives were horrified by that thought, since they didn't have a clue that the increase in sales would more than make up for the loss in (even substantial) revenue from service.

    1. I have that same cynical thought, often. Many business execs would rather make a buck this month than ten bucks the next. Penny wise and pound foolish!

  21. (Don McCollor) greatest gripe is what warnings cars now display. My new (used) car shortly on sputtered, stopped, and would not start (it was the fuel pump). The "Check Engine" light came on...COULD YOU BE MORE SPECIFIC?...

  22. Great stories here, clan!

    I tend to favor DIY, but I know my limits. The last major thing I did on my Jeep was new rotors and pads on all 4 corners, and the next major thing it needs will be new rear shocks and front struts. I don't usually do my own oil changes because I don't want to deal with the used oil and filter. I do my own oil on the Supra because nobody ever has the correct filter in stock, and nowadays they don't even keep the correct oil in stock!

    Big Stuff I can still do, but the glory days of a weekend motor swap are long gone.....

    1. I like the photo you included of the German battlecruiser Seydlitz after it got the heck beat out of it at Jutland in 1916! It was drawing so much water forward that it had to be BACKED into harbor!

    2. Kind of how I felt after paying the bill for getting my car fixed and then telling The Missus Herself!

  23. No offense to your obviously much-beloved Big Girl, but I call that model of vehicle the "Honda Excrement".
    I'm a Honda man too, although in bikes, not cars. Imagine my term for those if I didn't like Hondas...
    --Tennessee Budd

    1. It all depends on what you want in a vehicle I guess, she suits me.


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