Shade Tree Mechanic


Like most people in our fifties and sixties we have a love affair with our cars. Some of us prefer classic cars, some of us love the muscle cars of the 60’s and 70’s and some of us love the super cars. Me, I love them all. I even like the unusual and one of a kind cars custom rods and low riders. Having been a car guy my whole life, I have done a lot of work on my own cars. I have done everything from engine rebuilds to frame up restorations. For those of us that enjoy working on, and personalizing our own vehicles would easily notice and track down problems in other peoples vehicles, and would get excited at the thought of giving up a Sunday to rebuild the top end of a engine, or rebuilding a friends brakes. That being said, I drove someone else’s car and noticed the engine wasn’t performing the way it should and it felt sluggish and under powered.I also noticed a increased Idle and no brakes. I  heard what I thought was a exhaust leak. I checked the exhaust for a leak and couldn’t find one. In fact the exhaust looked almost brand new. So…. I started thinking what would cause this. quickly I remembered a Volkswagen I used to own that would do the same thing and make the same noise when it was slightly out of timing or a plug was fouled. So I pulled the first plug and immediately started seeing problems, uneven plug wear and oil in the plug threads and the plug wire. The number Two plug I found chunks of carbon and the number three plug was swimming in oil and the plug was fouled as well as the plug wire was fouled. number four wasn’t in much better shape. I also checked the PCV valve for the high idle and no breaks, I had seen that before in my 67 Mustang. It was clogged and some time back a mechanic had cut the hose to the valve so it didn’t seat properly. The check engine light would come on occasionally also. These are all pretty easy fixes and I figured I could replace everything I needed for about $60 and about an hour and a half of my time. I also figured it would increase his mileage about 5 miles to the gallon. That’s a free tank of gas every five tanks, or a free tank of gas once a month. for a savings of $500 a year. Not to mention the savings in parts and labor doing it myself. With my shopping list in hand I went to AutoZone. As the person behind the counter started pulling up the parts I needed I couldn’t believe the prices I was being quoted. Just for the plug wires they wanted $70, the parts list alone would have come to about $200. I thanked them for their help and walked out. I have used an online web-sight for parts in the past and I could’t believe that a head gasket was over $20 let alone over $60, what was it made with, platinum. So I went to, my old standby for parts and ordered everything I needed for under $50 plus shipping. They Offer everything from OEM parts to high performance parts.

The car runs great and no more sluggish acceleration or misfires going on, the breaks are improved but not where they should be, I think I’m going to have to bleed them, I also noticed a loud squeal from the brakes now that they are working better so when I bleed the brakes I’ll inspect the disks and shoes. The owner of the car said that the previous owner was a mechanic and had done all the work on the car. He also told me he had taken the car to another shop and they couldn’t find the problem with the check engine lights and brakes. As our vehicles get more and more advanced the mechanics are becoming more dependent on computers to tell them whats wrong with your car. Don’t be intimidated by your car unless your driving and electric car it still works the same as your grand parents car from the fifties.


The only major difference is a lot of the mechanical parts that regulate air and fuel flow are regulated by electrical components that are run by computer. But they are all plug and play (they can be replaced and plugged in).  I have found that newer cars are in some cases easier to work on. Don’t be afraid to fix it yourself. There are plenty of resources out there to help you with your DIY project (YouTube) and you can save yourself hundreds of dollars with a little bit of time on your part. What started all of this was the owner of the car told me that he needed new shocks and the repair shop he went to quoted him $800 without even inspecting the vehicle. I checked and the shocks and springs, they were fine, The tires were over inflated. That’s when I asked if I could test drive the car. Just because your mechanic says you need something, Don’t always agree, learn how to check for yourself. with a little research you can make a well informed decision and save yourself hundreds of dollars.