Reader Question: Scarce Oldsmobile Parts?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Mitch asks: Have you had or heard about any problems getting auto parts recently? I ask because my 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass has been in the shop for 3 weeks to have the power steering pump, hoses, etc. replaced. The mechanic indicated initially that it would be 10 days until the part could be obtained. Obviously it’s taking longer. He said the delay was in part because he needed the power steering fluid reservoir as well. And maybe the age of the car is a factor too, but it’s never taken this long to get a part for this car before that I can recall. It’s no problem for me as I have other vehicles available, and many days I walk or drive to the office, so whenever it can get done is fine with me. Just curious if you have experienced this or heard of it.

My Reply: I did a quick search on Ebay Motors and found a pump for your car; see here. If you scroll down, there’s a compatibility chart that indicates the pump listed will fit most ’76 Cutlasses. I wasn’t sure which engine your car has but assume it’s the 350 Olds. Double check to be sure. I checked Ebay Motors after I checked some of the suppliers I am familiar with, such as Classic Industries – which lists the pump but has it on back order, as per your mechanic.

It’s pretty standard procedure with old cars to have to hunt around a little for parts sometimes, but – usually – parts such as this are readily findable. You might show your mechanic this post and have him order the pump via Ebay (or you can and then just bring it over to his shop). The power steering hoses are also available; see here. Or any local shop that does hydraulic hoses (e.g., for heavy equipment) can make for you, using your old hoses as templates. Should be no big deal!

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  1. I use for my parts when the local store doesn’t have it. I just checked, RA has pumps from multiple suppliers with both rebuilt and new power steering pumps for pretty much every variant of the ’76 Cutlass. Many of them come with the reservoir.

  2. Some remanufactured parts have become harder to find due to nationwide core shortages.
    Some items that used to be readily available and commonplace are beginning to dry up because the junkyards have crushed many of the 1980’s and earlier era cars, and are focusing on newer models. When the rebuilders cannot find rebuildable cores, they will sometimes move to offering what’s called an R&R service (Repair and Return), where you send in your core, and if it is rebuildable, they will rebuild your original part and ship it back to you. Of course this type of service can take a lot longer than just buying something off the shelf.

    Alternatively, when items are popular enough, sometimes aftermarket companies will recognize the shortage of cores, and these companies will “tool up” (create molds, dies, etc.) to produce reproduction parts that are completely brand new rather than remanufactured. I have noticed that many of remanufactured parts that used to be commonplace and readily available from rebuilders, are slowly going the way of the dodo. If you are seeking an item that is from a rare model, you will likely have to use an R&R service if available. If you have a model that is more popular, luckily there are still companies that are investing in “tooling up” to fill the void in the market and service the customers that seek parts for the older models.

  3. Back when I had my ’77 Cutlass, parts were readily available. I went through more than one power-steering pump, and they were pretty much always in stock at the local parts store. The same pump was used throughout GM for who knows how many years, so it shouldn’t be at all hard to come by…unless it’s the same China-virus-induced shortage that seems to be affecting everything else.

    The same ought to apply to most of the other mechanical bits. Body pieces, OTOH, are another matter. My father still has the ’73 Cutlass he bought new way back when, and a few years ago the brakes failed and he rear-ended someone. In the repairs that followed, nearly the entire brake system was replaced (everything but the booster, I think), with all of those parts readily available. Finding the body bits that needed replacement was a tougher nut to crack, with calls to pick-a-part yards and such all over the country. I think there may have been some pieces that ended up repaired as best as possible because replacements weren’t available. Nowadays, I don’t think you can tell what it had been through, and it has a fresh coat of paint to boot (factory-original colors applied at by a dealer body shop with access to information on the colors Olds used through the years).


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