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Motor Age Garage: When customers need us — and we need them

Friday, June 1, 2018 - 07:00
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But when I researched the work we had done on that company car over the years, I found that somebody under my supervision had replaced the spark plugs some two years ago — almost to the day — but I couldn’t find a record of who did the work, only that we had purchased spark plugs and wires for that vehicle back then. The fact that the errant spark plug stayed in place for two full years before leaving its hole was amazing — that car has gone tens of thousands of miles with multiple drivers. And there was no evidence that the spark plug had overheated, either. Time and chance had struck again.

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Rust-ravaged by time

Speaking of Impalas, a 2006 model came to us needing brake work (scrubbing in the rear), and this one had spent its prime years in New York. With that in mind, the readers who live in those northern road-salt climates know what time and chance does to cars up there. One of my students made the remark that cars in the South rust from the top down and cars in the north rust from the bottom up. Down on the Texas coast, some of the shops used to regularly spray the underside of cars with oil to protect them from the salt air. I’m not sure if anybody does that anymore.

The left rear inner brake pad was long gone on this Impala and the caliper piston was kissing the rotor with every brake application. If that wasn’t enough, the car was blessed with enough rust — particularly on fluid-carrying lines — to make it very dangerous to drive. The fuel return line had even rusted through back near the gas tank and was leaking, and the brake lines were one heavy application away from a sudden death situation. It would have been a matter of time before the brakes failed, and it was only by chance that this vehicle wound up on our lift before it happened.

You can see that this caliper piston had worn the pad and its metal backing to powder – and all that was left was this silencer shim. It got this caliper replaced, all the rear brakes, 2 rotors, and… … before we were done, it got a replacement fuel line and some new brake lines – this was a New York nightmare. The wet area is from the rusty fuel line gas leak.

The brakes got replacement rear rotors, a new left rear caliper, and brake lines to the rear, which we built with bulk tubing, complete with ISO and double flares as required. The leaking fuel line was replaced from stem to stern with a new steel line, but I had to cut an 8mm return line pipe off an old fuel pump and compression-union it to the replacement fuel line so the plastic quick-connect would work back at the tank. Oh, and we also replaced the rusty fuel filter that looked just about as bad as everything else under there.

That encounter was a victory — time, chance and entropy had done their best to render this vehicle undriveable. But with some of our time, we undid enough of the entropy to hopefully remove chance from the equation.

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