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Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/10/2017 5:03 PM

Automobiles.

It sometimes seems that these machines are designed by individuals who know darn well they’ll never have to maintain it.

1) Late 60’s Datsun 310 – had to remove the carbs to replace the air cleaner.
2) Third Generation Buick Skylark with the V6 – unbolt the motor mounts, jack the engine up to change some of the plugs.
3) I personally had a 60’s Jeep Wagoneer SJ that I got used, but in general good shape. The instrument lights didn’t work when I got it, but that wasn’t a deal killer for me, easy fix. Couldn’t figure out how to change the bulbs, so I got a Haynes manual which told me to - Step One: Remove the windshield, this gives access to the screws that hold the steel dash in place. Now, who in their right mind would actually think this is a good idea?

How about you? There must be quite a few of these stories out there in CR4. Lawnmowers, motorbikes, boat motors, aircraft… all are fair game here.

Conversely, how about clever solutions? I understand Sunbeam Tigers with the Ford 260/289 were also a difficult plug change, but they provided a little access door behind the glove box so you could go through the firewall and reach the back two plugs on the right side. Any more of these forethought features?

As always, the crazier your story is, the more likely it will be incorporated into whatever mostly useless and wildly overpriced offering from LynDoor Industries comes next.

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#1

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/10/2017 5:47 PM

Many years ago I was worked at an inpendendent auto repair shop, after work sitting drinking beer, I pulled out the flat rate maunal. Low and behold,it opened to the page about changing the heater core in a 450sl Mercedes. 28 hrs, involving pulling the engine, transmission, right front fender, interior dash, both front seats just to access the heater core!!

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#2

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/10/2017 9:47 PM

So, from the manufacturers' point of view, would it make sense to design a car to be easy for the customer to repair, or not to waste the design effort and, as an added bonus, create a cash cow for their maintenance departments? Or am I being too cynical?

Here is an article that breaks down the cost to maintain/repair by car model:

Which Car Brands Cost the Most to Maintain?
Based on estimates of total car maintenance over 10 years
RankCar BrandCost
1BMW$17,800
2Mercedes-Benz$12,900
3Cadillac$12,500
4Volvo$12,500
5Audi$12,400
6Saturn$12,400
7Mercury$12,000
8Pontiac$11,800
9Chrysler$10,600
10Dodge$10,600
11Acura$9,800
12Infiniti$9,300
13Ford$9,100
14Kia$8,800
15Land Rover$8,800
16Chevrolet$8,800
17Buick$8,600
18Jeep$8,300
19Subaru$8,200
20Hyundai$8,200
21GMC$7,800
22Volkswagen$7,800
23Nissan$7,600
24Mazda$7,500
25Mini$7,500
26Mitsubishi$7,400
27Honda$7,200
28Lexus$7,000
29Scion$6,400
30Toyota$5,500

https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/the-most-and-least-expensive-cars-to-maintain-by-maddy-martin

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#3

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/11/2017 6:45 AM

Forethought features.. I have one for you. We had 1996 Dodge Intrepid and we were visiting my mother in-law in Tennessee when the fuel pump died. So there I am, standing in my mother in-laws driveway, wondering how I am going to drop an almost full gas tank with almost no tools. She had a couple of screw drivers, an adjustable wrench, and a pair of pliers.

I pulled the carpet back in the trunk and found an access door held on with 4 bolts. Took it off and walla, there was the fuel pump. Easiest full pump change I have ever done.

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/11/2017 10:04 AM

Good ol' Dodge. You forgot the rag you were going to use to wipe sweat from your brow, that you didn't need.

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#10
In reply to #5

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/11/2017 6:04 PM

The fuel pump cost me $208.00. Before I found the access door, I called several Morristown TN garages. For towing and replacement, I was quoted $1000 to $1200 to replace said pump.

That stupid little door saved me $800 to $1000, pretty nice when you're 600 miles from home.....

Bless Dodge on that one........

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#4

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/11/2017 10:00 AM

'Tis a story of high outrage on the motor scene, by unsuspecting buyers, nefarious engineers (undoubtedly furiners), and scurrilous management made up mostly of poltroons.

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#6

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/11/2017 10:32 AM

Not too crazy, but on my 2003 Toyota Highlander always threw an O2 code the day after an oil change. Not being that handy with vehicles (or much of anything, really) I googled it and found that this was a universal experience for Highlander owners. Based on the placement of the oil filter, it was difficult to get in to change it without jostling the air filter and dislodging one of the vacuum hoses. Probably happened 90% of the time.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/11/2017 4:37 PM

Never had that happen on my Highlander.

I did create a potential maintenance nightmare. Dropped a small block chevy v8 into a '62 Austin Healey 2000. Did the little door on the firewall thing, to get to the back plugs. (and yes it went like a raped ape!)

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/11/2017 4:42 PM

Did it stand on its nose?

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#9
In reply to #6

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/11/2017 5:53 PM

For about $10.00 you can buy a device that plugs into your OBDII socket that will mimic those $50-$500 code readers. It will give you real time analysis of many of your sensors while you drive.

It will cancel trouble codes, diagnose your engine and, after changing your battery, which also clears codes and renders your emissions system incapable of being tested will tell you when the system is ready. (Many sensors must be reset and this requires driving the vehicle for some time first.

You simply download a free app to read/clear the codes.

Not an endorsement:

This rendered my expensive code reader obsolete.

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#12
In reply to #9

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/12/2017 8:49 AM

It does all that, and changes the battery? Wow, for $10, I am in! Why does it render the emission system incapable of being tested?

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#15
In reply to #12

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/12/2017 9:34 AM

Only disconnecting the battery resets the sensors. (That clears all the trouble codes, too)

There's an evaporative something or other that must be run through some drive cycles before it is calibrated. Normally it does not matter as a few trips around town puts everything right.

It does matter if your state emissions tests, because unless all sensors send the proper codes, they won't test the vehicle, which is still required in AZ.

That emissions test's a total $20.00 ripoff in itself for any OBDII eqiipped vehicle.

Get one, it's worth it. I use OBD Check free app.

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#11

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/12/2017 6:58 AM

Not the manufacturer's fault, but a horror story about mechanics.

In the 80s I had a Ford Sierra company car, big firm with its own maintenance shop. I took the car in for a routine service, and on the the way home went to turn right across a dual carriageway (in UK). There was an HGV approaching, but some distance away so I put my foot down. The car jerked and died, I had to hit the brakes and only just managed to stop. After that I tried taking my foot of the accelerator, letting it overrun a short distance, then putting it down again. The car hiccupped and stalled before eventually recovering, so clearly something was wrong.

When I got home I looked under the bonnet, and there was a wire waving about in the breeze, and a tag on the carb. Ah, I thought, it's clearly come off, and I pushed it back on. Started the engine and it idled at about 2500rpm. I had to turn the throttle stop screw out 6 turns to return to normal! So some moron, apart from missing the obvious fault, thought it was right to screw in the throttle stop 6 turns, and could have caused an accident. They don't come much dimmer than that!

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/12/2017 8:52 AM

Wow! Are ya' sure he was a moron, or perhaps was he playin' afoul with ya?

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#14

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/12/2017 9:19 AM

I have a 98 Lincoln Towncar. The headlight assemblies each have 3 brackets you pull up on with one finger to remove. My 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee has one long bolt through each headlight securing it in place, again, easy. My daughter has a 1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse that requires unbolting the front bumper from the frame and pulling it off to access the bottom bolt that holds the headlamp assembly in place. Not at all easy or fun. A simple bracket with a hard rubber piece the bottom tab, (where the bolt goes through), could have set into prior to inserting the two top bolts, would have made the experience much easier. Unfortunately in the automotive industry, "design for assembly" often does not include "design for disassembly".

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#16

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/12/2017 11:13 AM

Two words.

American Motors.

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#17

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/12/2017 11:52 AM

I have a 2005 Volvo S40. In order to change the cabin air cleaner, I have to pull off two dash panels, remove the accelerator pedal, peel back carpet, then reach up with a universal swivel on a cordless driver to unscrew two tiny black screws (that will inevitably drop behind the peeled back carpet so that the farther I reach for them, the farther they move away) from a cover. Then I have to scrunch the filter element to get it out. This scrunching causes half the debris to dislodge from the element and fall into the box that can't be vacuumed out, so it blows out the vents when the fan is turned on.

To put the new element in, it has to be mangled to get a 10" element through a 8" slot (hoping it springs open fully when inside), put the tiny screws back in (while working in the shadows among a labyrinth of wires and cables)... all while laying on by back teetering across the door sill! All for a routinely serviced item!

The whole time cursing and swearing an oath that if I am ever introduced to a Volvo engineer that I would kick him* square in the lug-nuts!

*if a "her", then kick her in some yet to be determined place. I may have to ask my wife for recommendations!

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#18

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/12/2017 3:23 PM

I had a 2002 Ford Escape 4WD with a V6. The alternator was against the firewall near the axle. You had to pull the axle to get the alternator out. That is the way I did it the first time. Of course the CV boot fails a day or two later after being flexed out of its normal range.

The second time I changed it I pulled the manifold and air plenum loose and brought it out the top. I had vacuum leaks that needed fixing anyway.

I heard a garage would charge 6 hrs to do one of these.

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#19

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/13/2017 9:21 AM

Oh yeah, I could go on and on with this thread!! The dumbest one I ran across while working in a repair shop was a Ford Aerostar. Flat rate listed a spark plug change at 6 hours. You had to remove both wheels in the front, the inside the cab cover, move the alternator, and I forget what else. It was just insane, and when I had one come in to replace an engine, it was off the hook crazy to do. Instead of days the whole job took weeks to finish.

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#20
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Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/13/2017 9:25 AM

Yes, I used to suggest public floggings for automotive engineers that came up with these "mechanic traps".

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#22
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Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/13/2017 11:18 AM

Compared to an afternoon, (6hrs) to swap out a 3.0 in a 1990 Voyager. Even though the 3.0 Mitsu engine was a piece of junk i could not in good conscience not take advantage of the "plug and Play" way Chrysler had built that vehicle. The one thing the took the most time was actually swinging the engine in and out. Un hooking and hooking up was far easier than when i swapped in a 4 speed for an auto in my 72 Celica.

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#21

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/13/2017 10:52 AM

Hopefully when new car design is taken over by AI the system will automatically design maintenance problems out.

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#23
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Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/13/2017 1:40 PM

I like that aspect. One of the concepts that I like is the INGOCAR that I keep mentioning. It has a uni-chassis, and various body styles snap onto it.

This means if one was well-heeled and so inclined, they could take this car out as a luxury sedan one day, and the next day or even the same, convert it to a pickup truck.

Getting at items for maintenance should be far easier in such a case.

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#24
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Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/13/2017 1:44 PM

DAVE: Open the pod bay doors, Hal.
HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
DAVE: What’s the problem?
HAL: l think you know what the problem is just as well as l do.
DAVE: What are you talking about, Hal?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
DAVE: I don’t know what you're talking about, Hal.
HAL: l know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that's something I can’t allow to happen.
DAVE: Where the hell’d you get that idea, Hal?
HAL: Although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
DAVE: All right, Hal. I’ll go in through the emergency air lock.
HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave, you’re going to find that rather difficult.
DAVE: Hal, I won’t argue with you anymore. Open the doors!
HAL: Dave...This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

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#25
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Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/13/2017 2:07 PM

...stubborn machines, got their genes from washing machines, or 'twas it donkeys?

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#26

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/14/2017 2:28 PM

This morning. My son's 2004 Mazda6 with the 3.0L Ford Duratec V6 engine. Thermostat needed replacing. All of my previous experiences with replacing thermostats involved reaching in and removing two bolts on top of the engine, sometimes without disconnecting any hoses, and being done in 20-30 minutes. Watching the closest, to year, make & model, video we could find for doing the job it was near the right side fender-well under the power steering pump. The job requires moving the serpentine belt out of the way, unbolt and move the power steering pump then you can (sort of) see and remove the thermostat housing. The person doing the job in the video removed the front right wheel and the inner fender to (easily?) access the belt tensioner. Looking straight down inside the engine compartment I could see the opening for a 1/2" breaker bar to move the tensioner in the loosen direction so that seemed easier. Three small bolts allowed the coolant reservoir to be moved aside for better access to everything below which was not done in the video. Looking at the one bolt I could see for removing the power steering pump left me thinking what I saw in the video looked much easier. There was no way I wanted to remove that pump and there was no way to see under it without removing it. Never having been one to follow instructions without questioning I proceeded to the other end, (back) of the engine. Removed the top of the air box and the flex hose to the intake. Beneath that hose was a plastic housing with three or more hoses connected to it. Took off one hose, removed the three bolts holding the two halves of the housing and inside the housing found the thermostat. Thanks to SWAG analysis I found and replaced the thermostat that was on the wrong end of the engine. Horror Story would barely scratch the surface of what I would have gone through had I followed the video to the letter, only to find there was nothing under the steering pump.

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/14/2017 2:38 PM

Important take-away. Be sure the video exactly matches your year and engine.

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#28
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Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/14/2017 2:50 PM

The car in the video was a 2005. Was supposed to be the same from 2003 to 2008. Just ordered a Chilton Manual. That said, my son enjoys watching me work. He learns much from my intuition.

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#29

Re: Vehicle Maintenance Horror Stories

10/16/2017 9:36 AM

My latest horror story:

Four or five year old "Murray" lawnmower with Briggs & Stratton 6 HP vertical shaft engine. Pull start cord snapped off, and I had to drill out rivets to get to the pully-windy thing to put a new cord on it. Next I used large 1/4" x 3/4" sheet metal screws, but these I soon learned had to cut off short by 1/4" in order not to impinge on the flywheel fan. After that the thing would turn over but not start, seems the kill switch was not opening/closing. After working the switch about 20 reps, the mower finally started. Probably needs contact cleaner.

Then I was using my 4-cycle Craftsman weed whacker, and the internal parts broke loose inside the pull cord drum, actually, the detente parts are attached (normally) to the motor fan on the shaft. I found half the parts, was able to clip them properly back in place, was able finally able to finish the job on my lawn. I will need to order more parts soon.

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