Neglected Maintenance

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If you grew up in the pre-Interwebs, pre-computer world, you’ll remember how often cars needed This or That. Which is probably why people were more aware of car maintenance in those days. You really didn’t have much choice. Today, it’s easy to neglect maintenance stuff because there’s less to do – and less often. Spark plugs that last 100,000 miles. Oil changes every 10,000 miles. As opposed to spark plugs that lasted 12 months – and oil changes every 3,000 miles.

But cars are still machines and machines still need maintenance. Just not as often – and for different things. Here are some of them:plug wires

* Spark plug wires – 

Spark plugs may be good to go for 100,000 miles (chiefly because modern engines – assuming no mechanical issues – operate at near-ideal air-fuel ratios and so the plugs almost never get fouled before 100,000 miles) but the wires that transfer electric current to them often require replacing – or at least, checking – much sooner. This is because unlike plugs – which are made of sturdy alloys and ceramics – wires are made of materials like rubber (external casing) and graphite (conductive material inside) that are more susceptible to physical damage and degradation over time. Conductivity decreases – and (eventually) your plugs aren’t firing properly, which means your engine isn’t running as well as it could be. Plug wires should be checked for degradation every 30,000-40,000 or so and most will need to be replaced by 50,0000 miles (or after five years from new). If you car has a distributor cap and rotor underneath the cap, these should be checked – and probably, replaced – at about the same time. wire detail

PS: It’s still a good idea to remove and check the plugs before 100,000 miles roll by. Not so much to replace them (probably not necessary) but to make sure you’ll still be able to easily remove them after 100,000 miles roll by. Few things are more miserable than fused-in-the-head threads (or plugs that snap off in half as you try to remove them). By removing and reinstalling (with fresh anti-seize, if the plugs were not factory coated with a compound) at 50k or so, you’ll make that less likely to happen at 100k.

* Power steering fluid –

Many people forget to even check the fluid level – let alone replace the fluid when specified. Until the day when a death groan or squeal begins to emanate from under the hood whenever the driver tries to turn the steering wheel left or right. And by then, of course, it’s probably too late. And replacing a dead power steering pump is neither cheap nor easy. On the upside, replacing the fluid is. You hardly need any tools. A clean (ideally, new) turkey baster will do. Plus a quart or so of fresh fluid (be sure to get the right type; sometimes it’s brake fluid or automatic transmission fluid – check your owner’s manual to be sure before you pour). Run the car until it’s warm. Then, with the engine off, remove the fill cap for the power steering reservoir (the cap will often have information about the type of fluid to use – e.g., “use only Dexron III or equivalent”). Use the baster to suck out as much of the old fluid as you can. Then fill to the “full hot” line. Put the cap back on, start the engine and let it run for five minutes or so – then repeat until the fluid in the reservoir looks like the fresh fluid you just poured in. It may take 2-3 rounds with the turkey baster to get all the old fluid out. But it’s easy, inexpensive – and doing this every three years ago could save you having to buy an expensive new power steering pump… and having to pay someone to install it for pic

PS: You can do the same basic job – using similar tools – to avoid expensive brake system (and clutch) work. Use the turkey baster (or, if the access is tight/the reservoir opening too small, a syringe obtained from a drug store or doctor/nurse/vet) to suck out the old fluid in your car’s brake master cylinder and clutch master cylinder. This is much easier than bleeding these systems and requires no tools – other than the baster/syringe. Just be careful not to suck out all the fluid – you want to leave the little hole(s) at the bottom submerged, or else air might get into the system and then they will have to be bled. Of course, you won’t get all the fluid this way. But if you suck out/replace most of what’s in the reservoir every six months or so and continuously replace with fresh fluid, over time, you’ll get to the point where most of the fluid in the system is perpetually fresh (you can tell by looking; it’ll be clear-translucent-yellow instead of brown-headed-to-black) which will put the brakes on expensive repair work like having to have the clutch’s slave cylinder replaced or the brake system’s ABS pump or calipers replaced.

* Watch out for “dual clutch” automatic maintenance costs –DSG pic

You probably have heard about so-called “automated manuals,” also known as “dual clutch” manuals. These are indeed manual transmissions – with (typically) two clutches – but no clutch pedal and fully automatic operation. They shift smartly – and very efficiently – but unlike traditional automatics, many of which require no formal service at all for up to 100,000 miles, dual-clutch/automated manuals sometimes require surprisingly frequent – and expensive – routine maintenance. For example, VW’s Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) must have fluid/filter changes every 30,000 miles – and the cost for this service is typically several hundred bucks.

The salesman probably won’t mention this when you’re shopping.

Ironically, the high (and early/often) maintenance costs negate much of the (touted) reason-for-being for these transmissions – their superior fuel efficiency vs. a conventional automatic. But while the cost for this routine service is high enough that you may be tempted to postpone or skip, don’t. Because the cost to replace a dead DSG transmission will make you regret it. These boxes can cost as much as $5,000 each … not including labor to install.

* Cabin filters – cabin filter pic

Most cars built during the past decade have these. They do what it sounds like they do – filter outside air on its way inside the car, to keep dust and pollen from coming along for the ride. Like any filter, these filters are not forever. They eventually get clogged and when that happens, filtration falters. Your car’s ventilation system will either bypass the filter (and let dust and pollen flow freely into the car) or you’ll just get less air movement. Neither is good.

Replacing the filter is usually pretty easy. In most cars, there’ll be an access panel located in the vicinity of the front seat passenger footwell area or glovebox. Your owner’s manual should have specific details. You can buy a new filter at any auto parts store, just as you would an oil filter. How often should you replace the filter? The general rule is once every 2-3 years but check your car’s manual for the exact interval for your specific car.

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  1. Hey Eric,

    Are you familiar with Coil on Plug systems, like those found in many Toyotas including my 2002 Tacoma? For such systems, I suspect your assertion about spark plug wires does not apply, right? It actually strikes me as pretty cool technology. A conventional system depends on the distributor passing spark from a single coil depends on precisely timed mechanical systems with many potential points of maladjustment. Further, the wires from the coil and from the distributor to the plugs must conduct high voltage for a distance. Anyway, I think this is one technology worth using.

  2. I have a question concerning a maintenance item on my 2000 F350 7.3 V-8 diesel with an automatic tranny. I bought this truck 4 years ago at 137,000 miles from a dealer without knowing the maintenance history of it, but it seemed to be very well maintained. The A/T fluid also was the right color and had no burned smell. Today the truck has 180,000 miles on it and the tranny fluid is still the same. The truck hasn’t worked very hard throughout this time. The hardest it worked for me was to tow a mini-excavator on a trailer with my factory version of a Rease hitch for about 100 miles round trip.
    With the above information in my mind, I recently decided to change the fluid anyway just to be safe because that transmission would be very expensive to replace I am sure. I had replaced fluids and filters on older Chevy trucks that I had previously owned, but I decided to do some on-line research about doing the same on this truck. The results indicated that I should take this truck to a stealership because the convertor must also be replaced along with the fluid and filter change. I object to that information because I am a DIY guy who used to be a mechanic in the ’80’s and ’90’s on big rigs of various types (and yes, I installed drain plugs), and I already know that I am going to be spending a lot of money on the filter kits and gallons of fluids. I’d rather not spend the $90+ per hour labor costs plus stealership mark-ups if I can avoid it.
    My question therefore is: Can I just simply change the fluid and filters on this A/T like I used to do by myself safely?

    • Hi Brian,

      I have never heard of replacing the torque converter as part of normal/routine service. The only reason to replace the converter would be if it has failed (or is failing) and if that’s happened, odds are high that the entire transmissions will need to be replaced/rebuilt because of debris from the failing/failed converter (metal shavings, etc.) circulating through the transmission.

      If the torque converter (and transmission) are functioning properly, the only thing you need to do is drop the pan, drain the fluid and replace the filter. I recommend installing a drain plug while you have the pan off as this will make future fluid/filter changes much less messy!

      • eric, I used to be up in these things all the time but I’m sorta out of the loop right now. I recall ten years or more ago when servicing a Ford and a Chevy with diesels and automatics, they had inspection covers like manuals. The Ford had a drain plug on the converter and the Chevy didn’t. I know the Duramax transmission now(for years) has an external filter so maintenance is even easier. I often wondered why you couldn’t get a really hard drill bit and install a drain plug on that Duramax converter. I realize you’d want to be careful when going through the outer housing. Sure seems like this would be doable if you can still access the converter without removing the tranny.

        I just received a big jug of Amsoil transmission fluid(via your website although I’ve had an account for over a decade) and the price of that fluid is enough to make you want to drain it only once. Not saying it wouldn’t be worth it when replacement cost of a transmission like that exceeds $3500(or more).

    • Edit my previous sentence: The results indicated that I should take this truck to a stealership because the convertor must also be replaced along with the fluid and filter change.
      To: The results indicated that I should take this truck to a stealership because the convertor must also be FLUSHED along with the fluid and filter change.

      • Hi Brian,

        Ok, this makes more sense!

        Here’s the deal: It is not possible, by just dropping the pan, to drain all the fluid. Including the fluid in the converter. By dropping the pan, draining the fluid (and changing the filter) you will have removed/replaced about half the total capacity, give or take.

        This is ok. No harm will ensue.

        To get all the fluid, you could take the vehicle to a shop with a transmission flush machine. What happens is they (typically) splice into (not by cutting anything) one of the two cooler lines that takes transmission fluid from the transmission to the transmission cooler (in the radiator, typically) and suck out/replace all the old fluid.

        But, you can (as per above) replace half or more of it just by dropping the pan – and then, do it again after driving the vehicle for a week or so. Now most/almost all the fluid will be new.

        Assuming you didn’t let it get to the point that the fluid was seriously degraded (and based on your description, it does not sound like you did) then this way will get ‘er done without the hassle/expense of taking your shop to the stealership.

        Hope this helped!

        • Thanks for that info Eric. The prices at Big Lake, Tx are astoundingly high due to the oilfields. Try $130 per night motel costs as the cheapest available. Fortunately, my present job provides lodging at no cost. The drop in oil prices have slowed things down here, but I’m still working enough to make some overtime pay. Soon I will go to the closest city that has reasonable prices (San Angelo) and buy what I need for my truck: 2 batteries, 4 sets of brake pads (and maybe rotors – I still have to measure them), a brake master cylinder (mine leaks at the boot but still works for now), an electric grinder with a rotary brush to remove the rust on the frame at the rear of the truck, rust sealer/primer, parking brake cables, rear steel brake lines, and of course tranny drain plug, fluid, and filter. I’ll probably try doing the fluid and filter change in the Walmart parking lot just like I recently did the engine oil change so that I can simply drive to the rear of the store and dump my old oil in their auto-repair shops waste oil tank.

          • Brian, don’t know if it was the day of the week(week-end) or something else but we got a room at the Hilton in Big Spring for $90. I noticed lots of vacant spaces in RV parks all around west Tx. Big Lake maintains those high prices by being remote so large amounts of workers live in BS and drive the 22 miles to Garden City or the extra 47 to BL. Can’t wait to get back out there since we’ve been socked in with ice since Thurs. Cabin fever, loss of wages is driving me nuts!!

            • I haven’t priced any hotels/motels since mid-December, which was before the price of oil dropped drastically, so I do not doubt that prices have fallen since then. I work night shift at Pinnergy BTW.

          • San Angelo? Do they still roll up the sidewalks at 7pm? So I heard from an acquaintance who used to live in Winters. They would go into SA for a big time.

            • PtB, been 6 years since I lived there(RV, my bane)but it was semi-decent although the people there are the biggest a-holes I ever found in Tx. I can say one good thing about the place though and the surrounding area, you can get THE best beef at cheap prices anywhere I’ve been. Guess it’s because it’s goat country. I dunno. Lowake used to be worth the 100 mile drive for a steak though. Load up a car, go eat until you were miserable, drink enough beer to make you recall every little side road on the way home(I took note and refreshed my memory on the ride there). Stop in the dark, women on one side, men on the other, load back up and suddenly everybody was ready for another beer. Funny how that works.

    • Your transmission pan has a drain plug that you can use to save some money. Drain fluid and drop pan to change filter; old fluid tied up in torque converter, lines and cooler is still there. Button pan back up and refill. Now over next couple of months drain and refill the transmission pan several times. That will give you reasonably fresh fluid throughout. After that’s done, do the same drain/refill every oil change or every other one. If you want the best fluid, click through my AMSOIL ad on this site to contact me about wholesale pricing.

      • Thanks swingswing. I guess that I have never noticed that plug before. I’ll look for it more closely when I measure the thickness of my brake rotors.

  3. I am on my third and last Nissan, a 2.5 Altima with CVT transmission,134k miles. Fuel mileage is poor compared to the previous 1.8 L Sentra’01 with Automatic 30 mpg 180k miles or the ’96 Sentra 5 speed 42MPG 280K miles. Maintenance is everything for trouble free driving and safety. As usual great story Mr. Peters.

  4. Try owning an old gm military vehicle….you will find all kinds of metric and standard nuts and bolts… many random hose patches and quick fixes that last years more than intended

  5. I noticed that most car owners, especially Japanese car owners ignore maintenance like crazy. The average Camry or Accord owner thinks regular maintenance is filling the car up with gas and driving it slow in the left lane, thinking it will get 40 mpg.

    Car owners skip repairs on suspension and steering most often, followed by changing transmission fluid. That’s one reason I am scared to buy an automatic car with more than 60,000 miles. In the distant past, have seen automatics fail at 50,000 miles due to lack of maintenance.

    People never change their struts, replace their tie rod ends, or their sway bar links. They often trade their cars when these items fail. The smart money finds cars that have had their tires replaced but has suspension issues. People will sell those cars off for nothing.

    I hate the idea of legislation, but in a better society, people would be required to know something about a car before being allowed to drive it on public streets. They would know how to identify different parts of the suspension and steering, the most important part of the car.

    Of course, everything at this point is a lost cause. The age of the motorcar is dying quickly, despite the fact that our speed limits are better than they have been in 42 years.

    Oh, well.

    • It’s because a Japanese car will usually go farther without maintenance than the others with regular maintenance. I’m learning what they can do when they are maintained right now.

      Two 2006 Scions. One auto and one manual. I maintain them regularly. Suspension parts are replaced most often, though I have replaced a/c compressors in both after they seized–seems to be the biggest weakness of those cars. They are used for taxi’s and have multiple drivers. Harsh use, but these cars are head and shoulders better than the domestics that I had previously.

      Japanese cars seem un-beatable for longevity. Maintained, or not.

      • Yeah, I will grudgingly admit that Japanese cars probably have somewhat better parts in them and are more reliable. Because American cars are in the shop more often for repairs, other things get fixed as well, making American cars better overall maintained. I think that an American used car value is far better than a Japanese one. I have seen people ask like $3.5k for 10 year old civics that barely run hand have worn suspensions all over the place. I would rather pay $1000 or more less for a comparable American car and then fix it than shell out a lot of money for some clapped out 225,000 mile POS car just because it’s a Hooooooonda or a Toyoooooooooota.

        • Another often overlooked aspect of older American iron was the abuse that they could take. I have seen American iron with automatic transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid that looked like black water and the cars still ran. I have owned many American cars with mileage well over 200,000 without major work being done. Regular maintenance is necessary to insure vehicle longevity.
          A dirty little secret of newer cars is the (sometimes) poor engineering of engines–oil drain-down is not always as good as it should be, collects in “pockets”, eventually “cokes up” and results in a new engine being needed. In fact, dealerships were blaming owners for not changing engine oil regularly, ignoring the engineering problems that some of these engines had…

          • anarchyst if you know of the car engine with poor oil drain down that needs to be replaced all the time why not tell us what that car or cars are? Why keep that secret that you have?Clover

              • The most frequent causes of engine failure I see are caused by no coolant, tied for second is no oil and young male abuse. Sludge buildup is a thing of the past unless the engine oil is never replaced, thus the need to perform maintenance on a schedule that accounts for the conditions in which a particular vehicle is subjected. Routine maintenance alone should alert the owner to problematic coolant and oil consumption or leaks. Not much except maturity can stop abuse issues.

          • Hi Anarchyst,

            Yup. The older stuff was more forgiving because – among other things – no sensors to foul, fewer small passages to clog. Modern computer-controlled engines (and transmissions) are much more sensitive in this respect, which makes regular maintenance more critical.

        • Swamp,

          I’m with you on that to a point. If it were an old Buick or Oldsmobile that had the 3800 v-6, Id pay 1,000 for it over a hammered Civic or Accord. Chances are the Buick or Olds will be nicer, driven by older folks who changed the oil every 3k.

          No point in driving a Japanese pos, just because it’s Japanese and magically gets accepted as “cool”. That 3800 is going to get roughly the same mpg’s as an old Accord, but have much better power.

          Now, if I’m buying used late model vehicles, I will go Japanese every time. Parts are cheap and don’t seem to need replacement as often. The frustrating thing about this is the fact that the domestics know their weaknesses, but sometimes never fix them. Not that they don’t have the ability to, but more that they are huge bureaucracies where people don’t really give a shit. The unions contribute to those types of workings, even in the engineering and other white collar workings of the company. Unionism and an entitlement attitude have permeated American thought. The idea that we have a right to work 40 hour weeks, paid vacation, drugs, and flat out be lazy because someone else will do the work. Aisian culture is much less that way.

          Long story short, American car problems are cultural, more so than an inability to produce a quality product. In my opinion.

    • Hi Swamp,

      A little known fact is how expensive automatic transmissions have become. The “inexpensive” ones are in the range of $2,500 and it is not uncommon for them to crest $5,000. For some sense of how much of an increase in cost this is, consider that – today – you can still buy a new/rebuilt (to heavy-duty specifications) TH350 automatic (GM used these in almost everything they sold back in the ’70s and into the ’80s) for about $600.

      Now, granted, the TH350 is only a three-speed and has no overdrive. But it also doesn’t have a got-damned computer, is simple, easy to service and fix – and (if not abused) will last virtually forever. Also, you can buy an overdrive automatic (without got-damned computer) for about $1,200. Problem is, these units will not work in a modern car with a got-damned computer!

      • That’s why changing transmission fluid is absolutely critical for me. I hate automatics for that reason. Yeah, forget about cars made since 2001-05 when it comes to Automatics.

        I prefer manuals. Of course, those are becoming rare.

        • Yup.

          And, of course, the industry has made it unpleasant and harder than it needs to be to change the tranny fluid. No drain plug in the pan means a horrendous mess. First thing I do when I buy a car with an automatic is install a drain plug in the pan…

          • I have a ’93 Camry with about 275,000 miles on it. I didn’t want to go through the hassle and mess of dropping the pan every time I wanted to change the automatic transmission fluid. So I installed a section of rubber hose at the base of the radiator where the ATF cooling tank is. Periodically, I loosen the end of the hose (the end the fluid will exit from) and insert it in a plastic jug. Then I run the engine briefly to pump out the free-floating fluid. With the brakes on and the engine at idle, I shift through all the gears, put it back in park, and shut it down. I reattach the hose and add new fluid. This takes only minutes. I do this 3 or 4 times over a month or so to exchange the residual fluids and also to “wash” all the internal surfaces with fresh fluid. I know this isn’t a perfect maintenance solution because it doesn’t necessarily address any gunk in the bottom of the pan. But otherwise, it seems to work okay.

            • Hi Scott,

              I think this is a viable DIY solution. The one thing I’d want to be sure of, though, is that you’re not running the transmission with low fluid/pressure… which could cause you trouble.

              A sure-bet safe way to do the same thing you’re trying to do would be to install a drain plug in the transmission pan and – engine off – periodically drain as much as will come out, then refill. (I’d still advise doing the filter as well, per the mileage/time interval).

              • eric, transmission filter, $35 or less. Drop the pan for visual inspection, esp. of the magnet and solids that might be in the bottom of the pan. Cheap insurance considering most factory gaskets will last virtually forever so I have scads of extra gaskets should I need one. I want to see what’s in the pan though and it’s generally only a pain if there’s something like a brace underneath the pan. I won’t address Japanese autos in that respect though since I’ve seen some really stupidly made pans and hard to get at bolts, etc. There is a difference in filters so I try to go with the best. Probably more than one place to find info on the efficiency of various make filters but Amsoil has a good site for most filters of various types.

                I have a manual transmission diesel pickup but nobody makes a manual any longer and to be honest, when you’re trying to do something involving 4WD and heavy loads/pulling, or traversing difficult terrain, the auto is the better choice in applying power.

                I won’t be using Scott’s method since I know low fluid can damage the bearings and seals on the pump very quickly.

                I’ll continue to drop the pan, look it all over good while getting plenty of fluid on my face and front that will all wash off. I don’t get quite as oily with a lift but not a whole lot less I’ve noticed. I may be anal when it comes to clean but having that pan OR clean is my peace of mind. If you never take it off, you never know for sure what’s there. It would keep me up at night and I’d finally have to do it anyway in self-defense of sleeping.

    • Swamprat (or anyone), how often should the struts, tie rod ends, and sway bar links be changed? I’ve never seen these items listed in an owner’s manual.

      • Hi Brandon,

        Sway bars/end links are just pieces of tube steel (or similar) but the bushings will eventually wear out. Struts are basically shocks and (as Brent says) they should be replaced when there’s reason to believe they’re worn out – such as deterioration in ride quality/handling. In general, my experience has been they’re good for 5-6 years or so and about 50,000-75,000 miles depending on how the car is driven.

  6. You have a great point about spark plug wires. I have a 1994 F150 with a 5.0 and 160xxx miles. last year at about the 154xxx mark the transmission started acting up and slipping between 2nd and 3rd gear. I was about to go buy a new transmission but first I took it to my mechanic to get his opinion on it. He kept it overnight and looked all over it and finally found out the source of my woes; a worn out plug wire that had broken part way through. Somehow or another it threw a code to the computer that the transmission was slipping. After replacing the wires with BWD super mags I havent had a problem since.

  7. “doing this every three years ago” – oh would that we could get away with that. Are you traveling with Dr. Who or Mr. Peabody?

  8. VW Beetles were maintenance hogs. Adjust valves and brakes every 2000 miles, change oil every 1500. Clutch and accelerator cables would break during blizzards or floods. Ahhh. The good old days!

    My neighbor recently traded a car because the cost of replacing tires, brakes and the timing belt was too much to bear. They decided a 30 month lease was the financially prudent alternative.

    I guess most automobiles seldom receive maintenance unless a light on the dash warns the driver or breakdown.

    • I had a ’73 Super Beetle (and other old VWs) so, I’m hip!

      The new stuff hardly needs anything except gas for an amazingly long time. But then, you get to a point – about 12 years down the line, based on my own and anecdotal knowledge – when they begin to get really expensive to keep on the road. It’s like a pill that maintains youth until you get to about 60… at which point, galloping senility sets in!

    • I grew up around Beetles and they were amazing when they were running. We once floated nearly 1/2 mile in one and then managed to get some traction and crawl out of the water in time for school(the roads around the school were the river for a day or two). Cold weather, that was another thing, better wear your coveralls. Hot weather, sweat….a lot and take it easy on the engine since it would toast in west Tx. heat toot sweet.

      At college I’d hear a friends(so many had them)VW and tell them, better adjust those valves. Of course they’d always say Why? Don’t you hear that high pitched squeak and can’t you tell the engine is not making power? Well, it goes fairly much like it always has. Ok then, get ready to walk. How do you adjust the valves. With a feeler gauge. Can you do it? I could…..if it were mine but I have a Duntov solid lifter cam that fairly much takes up my valve adjusting time. That Chevy don’t outrun Lon’s Ferrari cause it just happened to be a good one. So how do I adjust them. That old station that has about 20 Beetles around it? That guy can do it right in a few minutes. Of course no one ever did adjust the valves so you’d eventually get the call “come get me, my car quit”. It was common to see Beetles abandoned on the roads of Tx., seized up from the heat. I guess they did ok up north….but I was never “up north”. Deutz diesels were great engines too, as long as you used them in the higher latitudes where heat wasn’t a factor. I never saw one in Texas and doubt anyone with the money to buy a diesel rig didn’t have enough sense to keep an air-cooled diesel where it would get “cooled”.
      In my home town, an enterprising guy got some molds for a Meyers Manx body and made hundreds of them. We had cut up Beetles and Meyers Manx knock-off dune buggies out the wazoo for years but it was the same story as the Beetle except people didn’t run them long enough to melt them down as fast as highway cars. A friend had one(dune buggy) he melted so he put an aluminum V-6 Buick engine in it and that thing would fly.

      • My dad had a ’64 “red VW microbus” (actually his was 2-tone – off white over red) – of course it got run flat out a lot when we travelled. Threw a rod once on the NY Thruway, swallowed a valve another time, and lost either 2nd or 3rd gear (I forget which) twice.
        And my brother-in-law had a Deutz that did pretty well for him – in Minnesota. Of course whenever his dad was helping him work on it, he’d point to the Crescent and say “Hand me that metric wrench.”

        • I always thought a Deutz would be the nads for winter but we have short winters. Beetles probably did well for going from one town a few miles from another in a colder clime.

          I got really pissed working on my ’77 Silverado when I found it had metric bolts and nuts sizes(mixed with SAE on the same part) but at least the threads were SAE which makes no sense. I used my motorcycle wrenches on it since none of the metrics were the really large things like spindle nuts or pinion shaft nuts or even axle bolts or wheel stud nuts.

          I never could figure why Bush Hog made some units in Italy with metric gear boxes until they all cratered. Once replaced with SAE boxes it was fairly much indestructible but the zerks were all metric. I still detest metric, esp. Japanese metric which I consider inferior fasteners.

          I still have one of those “fits nearly anything” wrenches(not an adjustable but a weird end with a piece that would fall down and capture the edge of most anything it would fit over) for emergency metric repair. Somebody made off with a double ended wrench that had 3/8th” to about half on one end(ball type thing)and 9/16″ to 3/4″ on the other. Since it was oddly shaped and would attach at nearly any angle I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be the perfect wrench for the distributor hold down on late 60’s, early 70’s ‘Vettes.

          • Metric heads with inch threads? Probably old product being made on updated lines. ’77 was about the time things were switched over. It’s too painful to redesign all the parts to use metric but since GM would be using custom bolts anyway changing the heads to match the assembly equipment would be the easy solution.

            I loathe the regular grade JIS fasteners. A little rust and they just want to snap.

            • Also had a ’77 El Camino at the time. It had a steel flywheel cover while the 5/8ths T Silverado had an ABS cover. The EC was made in Mexico so you would have though the weird bolts would be on it, identical drivelines, both with the uncommon TH 375 transmissions(pumped up TH350 but very strong).

              You never knew what you’d get with Chevy, always a guess. My dad had a ’69 Impala he bought off the showroom floor, no mileage on the odometer and nothing to indicate it was any different except a Tonawanda moniker on the engine. 200,000 miles later and that 350 SBC shed the nylon timing gear and bent the valves and the rest is history since it was mine at that time. So I get ready to rebuild the engine and have a cousin who works for a very large SW GM parts dept. of which he was head honcho. I give him the cam #. He never finds anything in the GM books. The rods had been stressed relieved and I give him those numbers, nada. There were two types of lifters in the engine, one type on the drivers side and another on what I call, the torque side, the passenger side. Neither in the books. It had a crank not of a type I was familiar with so I farmed it out to other more knowledgeable people. No crank like that in the books either. The pistons had a weird skirt design and the con pins were a bit different too. At 200,000 miles those pistons pushed out by hand, almost no wear in the cylinders and the block had a bit more clearance to the eye where the con rods spun past the webs, again, nobody knew.

              You might guess as to the origin of some things and if they were truly Canadian as the Tonawanda name suggests, then they were only on Canadian books or either on no books. The lifters being of two distinct types was strange all in itself. But that engine was a runner. No telling why it was stuck in that car. I began to wonder about how many cars were made with experimental engines put in them. That’s all I could do though. The trail led nowhere.

              BTW, when that car was new it had single exhaust and one of those tiny air horn cleaners on it with a heat riser for the choke. I asked my dad one day if he’d like his car to get better mileage and more power. Of course he would. I removed the outer part of the heat riser, put a longer stud in the carb and turned the air cleaner cover over. I had timed the car between two road signs before I did this. After those simply mods, I tried to time it again but it broke the rear tires loose and that fairly well told the story. When I tromped on it and the rear came loose you couldn’t have slapped the smile off my dad’s face. I did a bit of air adj. to the carb too and it got even better mileage and of course, more power. After I got the car from my dad, I installed tube headers and duals with Corvair turbo mufflers. That sumbitch would get it after that and then it got new Pirelli speed rated radials and would literally sling you around with the new station wagon springs I installed on it. That was a bench seat that a seat belt helped a lot on. I kick myself because I knew that car had a nylon timing gear and should have changed it.

              You never knew what you’d get with GM back then, much like Forrest’s box of chocolates. A friend’s uncle had a ’70 model Chevy pickup with a two barrel “396” in it. It was a holy terror power-wise. It might have been the regular 402 or it could have been a 427 or just about anything. It would outrun the state trooper Fury lll like it was tied down.

              • Sounds very strange. I thought chevy V8s of the era were all non-interference. Why would the valves bend from a timing gear failure on a non-interference engine?

                Not that you’d be BSing me with a campfire story or anything but such things are the tell tale signs of mythical engines that when found today are big money cars. Tonawanda is GM engine plant btw that occasionally provided an interesting engine or two apparently.

              • Funny… boyfriend 35 years ago (spouse now) drove a police Fury III. He had a top quarter horse colt that an old fellow traded the car for the colt. He was only 10th grade, but a car was ABSOLUTELY necessary for a young guy back then. It is nice to think back on the pre-computer days when freedom was far greater and nanny-state regulations far fewer. Fury III ROCKED, then after four years, it just died. I am glad that old thing got him to college a year.
                Speaking of dying, the colt turned out to be an exceptional roping horse. At a rodeo, a backfire spooked him and he broke away and ran out into the road and hit a car.

                • Hi Sally,

                  IIRC, the police car with the highest recorded top speed was a 440-powered Polara, which managed an almost unbelievable 150 MPH in 1969… with a three-speed Torqueflite automatic!

                    • I once had the opportunity to flog a similar Mopar – ’71 GTX 440 4 barrel. That was one of the scariest-fast cars I have ever had the good luck to pilot. Speedo registered 130-plus and the thing was still pulling like Saturn V. I lost my nerve before it ran out of power.

            • I recently busted my knuckles on a 2007 Silverado. It was a mix of SAE and metric. Still didn’t finish the change over after 30 years.

    • Years ago I had an 88 Celebrity wagon. 2.8 V6, auto, 200+k. It needed tires, brakes, shocks/struts and a full exhaust system, but it got me where I needed to go. When the water pump went, so did the wagon.


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