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View Full Version : With Vehicles, It Seems Like it is Always Something



Jim Koepke
06-17-2015, 5:27 PM
It pays to have an auto parts store you can count on...

Recently the windshield wiper motor on my truck died. Called my favorite auto parts store in town to see if they had a replacement. They told me those do not go out often enough to keep on hand, but they could have one in later that day.

My diagnosis was based on having the key in the ignition and the door open buzzer blaring. When the wipers were turned on, the buzzer frequency/intensity dropped. This told me the wipers were drawing current, but were not moving. In my early days of being broke with more time to work on Volkswagens the motor would have been taken apart and repaired. Now days it is easier to just buy the part and do less work so other things can be done in the time saved.

My truck has had a few little problems of late. Most of it seemed related to being parked over the winter without being used. The instrument panel volt meter was a little low. Checking with my own meter showed it was charging. The power steering was a little sluggish when not moving. There was also some squealing from under the hood at times.

Today had me heading to Vancouver to help a friend haul a load to the dump. Just as I was getting into town there was some squealing and then my power steering seemed to have died. The voltage dropped and the temp started to rise. So I stopped at the first place in town. Candy was already out of the house watering before the heat of the day was too much for her. She couldn't hear the phone ringing. Hitched a ride with a neighbor who stopped into the store at an intersection known as Baker's Corner. Maybe a long time ago before there were some levies built up there may have been water there. It is right next to Baker's landing. Not sure who that Baker person might have been, but there are a lot of Baker's this and Baker's that and even a town called Baker in Oregon.

Finally got home, picked up a bunch of tools and Candy went into town with me to take care of the truck. At the auto parts store the young guy at the counter offered me a piece of the cake that was on the counter and looked up the belt needed for the truck. He said it would be tomorrow before he could get one. I asked if he knew anyone else in town that may have one on hand. So he was working the phone when an older guy came out from the back of the store with some lamp fixture he was trying to fix. He asked what belt we were trying to find. He then went to the back of the store and came out with a different belt with a part number one digit different from the one specified on the computer. He said this one should work, it is only 3/8" different than the other one. My appreciation for people who can think outside the box was clearly expressed.

Good thing my metric tools were tossed into my tool box for the job. Even though it is an "American" made truck, the tension pulley has a 15mm bolt on it to push it in to allow clearance for the belt to be installed. Back on the road and it only took about 3 hours from failure to back home. 15mm is one of those sizes that doesn't translate to common SAE sizes. It is between 9/16 and 5/8".

There seems to be a lot of auto parts stores in town, but only a couple of them seem to have knowledgable people behind the counter. One of the other parts stores got on my bad side when my truck needed a water pump gasket. The guy told me they had one in stock. After driving into town, he told me the computer showed they had one but it must have been sold without being removed from in stock status. During our phone conversation he was asked to check stock and put it in 'will call' for me. After letting him know about my not being happy the manager took one from a water pump replacement kit. But things like that still leave me looking for someone who will take better care of customers. Maybe the young guy at the counter today also got an education about exact parts and alternative parts. It sure made me happy. It seems to have also made my truck happy. The voltage meter sprung up to the proper level and the power steering has no hesitation even at a full stop.

So folks, that is a hint. If your vehicle seems to be losing power steering, charging or any other system connected to the long belt driven by the engine's crankshaft, you may want to look into changing your belt.

That dump run down in Vancouver will have to wait until tomorrow.

jtk

Jim Koepke
06-17-2015, 5:33 PM
Forgot to mention one of the hoses to the heater sprung a leak. Fortunately it was right next to a fitting and there was enough slack to cut a little off and use the same hose.

Getting the clamp on and off in the tight area was a bit of a pain. Installing the serpentine belt made me realize working on cars is a lot easier when one is young.

jtk

John A langley
06-17-2015, 6:09 PM
They were also simpler when one was young

Mark Blatter
06-17-2015, 9:34 PM
Forgot to mention one of the hoses to the heater sprung a leak. Fortunately it was right next to a fitting and there was enough slack to cut a little off and use the same hose.

Getting the clamp on and off in the tight area was a bit of a pain. Installing the serpentine belt made me realize working on cars is a lot easier when one is young.

jtk

I am sure you know this, but I would change that hose now rather than waiting. Once they are weak enough to spring a leak in one spot, my experience says they will split elsewhere.

On the 'young guy behind the counter' this is where experience comes into play. I don't do much work on cars simply because I would rather blow saw dust out of my hair than dig grease out from my fingernails. Yet I have always appreciated working with an older guy, though now that guy can really be younger than me, who really knows what he is talking about....knows his stuff and how to work around a problem. Someone that doesn't rely on what a screen in front of him says, but stops to think about it. Not so much an age thing I guess, but whether they can think or not.

Jim Koepke
06-18-2015, 2:34 AM
Someone that doesn't rely on what a screen in front of him says, but stops to think about it.

This reminds me of our stock room part books from my last job. Someone decided descriptions should be a certain length and no longer. This required dropping the sizes of many items. Ingrown bureaucracy is a terrible thing to waste time fighting. Somehow bureaucracies have a tendency to attract those with fantastic plans having absolutely nothing to help advance the task at hand.

jtk

Jim Koepke
06-18-2015, 2:37 AM
Something I forgot to mention about the auto parts store. Both times when a part was not in stock they told me what time they would have to order the part to ensure getting it in at the promised time. They said this was incase I wanted to shop around town to see if anyone else might have it.

They just seem like good people.

jtk

Brian W Smith
06-18-2015, 5:39 AM
On the counter man thing........

Was at a real plumbing store a few weeks ago,with a real counter and a real counter man.The place is family owned and has been since,I reckon "indoor" plumbing?So am sitting on a bar stool waiting for the gentleman in front of me to finish up.All along with a cpl O-rings stuck on one of my digits.The 70 something counter guy finishes with the other cust. and looks at me,then the O-rings......then reaches over to a peg bd display and hands me a pack of replacement O-rings for a 1964 Delta faucet.No computer,no questions,no nuthin but,"they're 2 bucks".

We're fortunate here to have that level of expertise in several other areas,auto parts is one and several more.

Erik Loza
06-18-2015, 1:52 PM
OK, I'll share my pain. Our 2003 4Runner has been super-reliable over the years. No major issues and then out of the blue the other day, I get an aubible alarm and warning lights for the brake system, VSS, and Traction Control, all simultaneously. To make a long story short, Toyota chose to use a super-complicated, combined electronic/hydraulic booster system in conjunction with the brake master cylinder and if any part of that fails, you have to replace the entire unit, which is close to $2K for the part alone and can only be handled by the dealership. No aftermarket options and component is non-serviceable. We need the 4Runner, so no choice but pay. *arghh*...

Erik

Ken Fitzgerald
06-18-2015, 2:16 PM
We bought a used '86 4-Runner to replace a '82 Blazer that was losing it's 5th transmission( total vehicle miles 41,000) when I traded it in on the 4-Runner that had 2. 2L 4-cylinder engine. We drove it until 2003 when the "little" stuff started to just wear out. We had put 169,000 miles on it.

When I took it in for an oil change at 121,000 miles, the technicians told me they could hear timing chain slap. I listened and sure enough I could hear it too. They also showed me some metal particles on the old filter. I was doing my own auto work then so I bought a timing chain from Toyota and because their price on the gasket set was so expensive, I bought an aftermarket timing chain gasket set.

3 times I bought that aftermarket gasket set and removed the radiator, transmission cooler, pulled the vibration dampener, the timing chain cover and reinstalled with a new gasket ONLY to have a leak around the crankshaft.

I stopped into a friends music store one afternoon to visit. A mechanic who owned his own shop returned my friends Toyota pickup after changing the oil. I struck up a conversation with him about my timing chain/ crankshaft oil leak. He asked me where I got my gasket set. I told it was an aftermarket set (FelPro, IIRC). He informed me that Toyota had changed the specs on that crankshaft gasket and a lot of the aftermarket companies hadn't. He recommended I buy that individual gasket from Toyota. I did.

The 4th time I tore it down, the Toyota gasket fixed it. The original more expensive Toyota gasket kit probably would have been cheaper and saved me a lot of labor.

Larry Edgerton
06-18-2015, 2:23 PM
This is why I always drive new. I search for screaming deals on base model trucks when the one I have is about 2 years out, take good care of what I have and either sell it myself or trade in, whatever I get the best deal on. I am at about $1600 a year averaged out over the last ten years. I drive about 30K a year. I can't keep old iron running for that cost.

Base models are the key though, it can't be done on loaded ones. I just bought a 2014 F150 for $21K, air and cruise the only options. Sticker was $27.800. I traded the truck I had for almost three years for $4200 less than I paid for it, but.....

I never had a single repair, and like Erik pointed out, repairs these days can be extremely expensive because of the electronics.

Erik Loza
06-18-2015, 2:55 PM
....Base models are the key though, it can't be done on loaded ones...

This ^^^... My wife really wanted the Mini Cooper, which we bought about 6 months ago. In my heart, I KNOW things will fail on it at some point so my agreement with her was, "You choose the platform and colors and I'll choose the options and packages", and I went as simple as possible.

For example, I opted for regular halogen headlights rather than the fancy LED ones. Sure the LED ones are brighter and have that "adaptive" BMW feature where they pivot into the corners but if the LED or the stepper motor fails, it is non-serviceable. You need to buy the entire headlight module, which is like $1,200 from the dealership. There's nothing but a $5 bulb to fail in our headlights. Ditto on the nav system. I can always put my suction cup Garmin in the windhshield but if their fancy integrated nav system or head unit fails, well, LOL...

Erik

Anthony Whitesell
06-18-2015, 3:47 PM
This ^^^... My wife really wanted the Mini Cooper, which we bought about 6 months ago. In my heart, I KNOW things will fail on it at some point so my agreement with her was, "You choose the platform and colors and I'll choose the options and packages", and I went as simple as possible.

For example, I opted for regular halogen headlights rather than the fancy LED ones. Sure the LED ones are brighter and have that "adaptive" BMW feature where they pivot into the corners but if the LED or the stepper motor fails, it is non-serviceable. You need to buy the entire headlight module, which is like $1,200 from the dealership. There's nothing but a $5 bulb to fail in our headlights. Ditto on the nav system. I can always put my suction cup Garmin in the windhshield but if their fancy integrated nav system or head unit fails, well, LOL...

Erik

Ditto that. My wife is due for another car in October. I have warned her that if she sees anything ooey she has to have (like LED moving headlights) that she has to pay to have them fixed.

I went even one more notch. I drive a standard transmission. Several hundred less parts to fail. My last car was a Nissan Altima. I put 257,000 miles on the transmission and cost me only $7.95 in maintenance. That was only because the CV boot ripped and replacing the axle shaft causes a quart of tranny fluid to come out. The bottle of fluid cost me $7.95. When I was shopping for cars, before settling on the Accord, when the salesmen would ptch the automatic transmission I would tell them they would have a sale if they had a $0 deductible lifetime warranty for $7.95. Obviously none did. I would in turn say, "well I guess that shows the standard transmission is better than the automatic."

Once upon a time I had a Lincoln LS with all the bells and whistles. The bells and whistles were the only things that broke. Luckily under warranty they were fixed free of charge at my inconvenience.

I avoid the bells and whistles at all costs, including the costs from my pocket. It still perplexes me as to why the designers think that those who drive standard transmissions do not need fog lights or want a sunroof. I do not understand that correlation. Nissan took it one step further. The Nissan Sentra did not offer the standard transmission with cruise control. No traction control I understand, but no cruise control? My Accord, Altima, LS, and T-Bird all had cruise control and a standard transmission.

Brian Elfert
06-19-2015, 12:43 AM
I think auto manufacturers assume that most people who buy manual transmissions are buying a manual to save money. They figure if you're trying to save money why offer any fancy options with a manual transmission?

A lot of vehicles no longer even offer a manual transmission option including some pickups. Auto manufacturers are offering a whole lot less flexibility in options choices these days to save on manufacturing costs. My brother bought a new 2004 Acura some years ago now and it came fully loaded by default. There were like six options offered. (Not six options packages, but six options total.)

Jim Matthews
06-19-2015, 8:17 AM
I put 9400 miles on my VW wagon since last December - short hauls to elementary school
and sundry housekeeping duties. I was stunned at the amount of driving done.

I've been shopping for 'simpler' vehicles where I can still get my mits on various
gubbins in the engine bay, change the oil, find the dipstick, etc.

Cars that were built that way are more than 20, sometimes 30 years old.

Modern cars are better, more reliable and outperform the old timers.

The mean time between failures is longer.
The likelihood of a catastrophic failure (generally due to deferred maintenance)
is marginally higher.

What I can't deal with is the necessity of having the VW dealership charge $175 just
to reset trouble codes that put the car into 'limp mode'.

Even with the outrageously expensive parts that break on this generation of vehicles,
we're rarely stranded, by the side of the road.

When was the last time anyone chiming in here saw a rust bucket with the hood up?

Matt Meiser
06-19-2015, 11:13 AM
You can buy a pretty nice code reader for under $100. Last CEL on my wife's car I bought a new one because the one I've had for 10 years wouldn't do everything, used google to diagnose that the most common reason for that code on that car was a $15 sensor, which took 10 minutes to replace. The new reader paid for itself that one issue.

I don't always do repairs myself but it's worth doing some diagnostics before taking it in to see if it's something I can do myself or not. Google is part of that.

Chuck Wintle
06-19-2015, 3:50 PM
my old civic was on its last legs and then the battery died, replaced for $100, the hood latch quit working, repaired for $50 , and then the license plate fell off, repaired for $40 and finally the motor began to stall out all the time....got rid of the car at that point.