Richard Craver

Musings about this world, and the world to come.

Old Sleds

Written By: richardwcraver - May• 11•18

We have a term for cars that are past their useful service life; we call them Old Sleds. Basically it describes a car that gets dragged from shop to shop by it’s owner that never seems to have any money, because naturally the previous shop charged them a bunch of money and didn’t fix their car. So we have had our number picked in the lottery of life to be the superhero to right all wrongs for no real financial compensation.

Such is the state of the car I have in my bay today. It was towed in as a first time customer two weeks ago with a bad starter, not an uncommon occurrence. The car has obviously been to a number of lesser shops and a few AutoZone type parts houses, and is stewn with poor quality parts. Oh, and it’s 21 years old as well. When replacing the starter I noticed that the battery cables were loose, the prior AutoZone free battery installation had included an upsell of a set of felt disks under the cable ends to ‘prevent corrosion’. These are additional revenue upsell that do little to actually prevent corrosion; if they worked, every automaker would install them at the factory. No, actually a quick shot of spray grease does a commendable job. Regardless, the thickness of the felt prevented the cable ends from sliding down properly on the tapered battery post and the cable end would not tighten up. So the ‘installer’ had ran a sheet metal screw between the post and loose cable end to firm things up somewhat.

Well since I am putting the new starter on, it’s in my best interest to fix the cable ends so the car doesn’t get towed back here or another shop with the owner trash talking us and wondering if he really needed that starter at all. I pulled out the felts, fully seated the cable clamps and they tightened up like Acura intended. I even straightened up the power tap for the boom box and coated it all with SuperLube spray grease.

Today it is back, but now he’s complaining of a clicking left axle. So putting the blinders on to the rest of the car, we price a replacement axle and it is approved. When the steering knuckle was swung out of the way, the axle shaft fell out of the inner joint because the boot was shredded and there was no material to hold the pieces together. I’m sure that boot just flung apart this week. Normally at this point a simple flick of a prybar and the inner joint comes out. No. OK, if it’s too tight for a prybar I get a punch and hammer and tap on the back of the inner joint. No. It is rusted solid.

We are all in now. With the pieces of the inner joint on the floor and a bad outer joint I remove the intermediate shaft from the car and take it to the bench vise where I can get a good swing at the punch with a hammer. Thirty minutes of hammering, prying, hammering while prying; now the bearing in the intermediate shaft is damaged and the inner joint still won’t come out.

Good news! The intermediate shaft is the same as 5 speed Accords from 1990-1997, so we aren’t looking for only Acura CL 2.2 5 speed parts, we have options! Bad news! The newest model is now 21 years old, and salvage yards start culling old cars after about 15 model years.

An intermediate shaft is found an hour away, still in the car, out on the yard. Another salvage yard 2 hours away has one already removed, 4 hour round trip. So here I sit waiting for a decision. Everyone who gets involved has to take a hammer and beat on it a few more minutes as if I and the other two guys who have beat on it didn’t how to swing a hammer.

There is NO future in trying to make chicken salad out of chicken manure. You can add all the mayonnaise and pickle relish you want, but it’s still chicken manure. And once we find the 20+ year old used part to get it back together, the owner will drag the old sled to another shop and trash talk how bad we treated him.

We do all we can do, but sometimes you can’t create a good outcome. Ultimately the car is the responsibility and problem of it’s owner; we can not make his problems our problems.

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