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Cheap repairs we made when we were young and broke.



  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 40,557

    Missed this one first time around. :)

    In 1980 (ergo my fuzzy memory) I bought a 73 SuperBeetle with a centrifugal advance distributor and it had replaceable springs. There was some issue with the weights or springs and instead of replacing the distributor, I figured out a way to stick some short bits of matchwood in the mechanism. When the Bug started running lousy, I'd know that the wood had fallen out. Always kept a box of Strike Anywheres in the glove box.

    My mom's old 70s era Impala was a good runner but the passenger door latch broke. She was older and had plenty of money but, being a child of the Depression, got by for several years holding it shut with some coat hanger wire tied off to a seat belt buckle.

    Need help navigating? - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,695

    Once a neighborhood vandal went out one night slashing tires. My buddy's 1955 Chevy was one of the victims. Luckily they only slit one of his tires.

    In his parent's garage, he managed to find an old inner tube that was probably 20 years old or more. A local gas station installed the tube and he was set to go!

    Well, a couple of days later, the tube decided to pop on the freeway which caused my friend untold troubles.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,872
    edited January 31

    I used to operate a Mobile Repair Service in San Francisco in the late 70s to early 80s. I had a huge Chevy wagon and I'd drive right to your house and work in the street. I'm sure modern mechanics would be appalled, but in my defense, a) the cars I worked on were far less complicated and b) my customers were always quite satisfied. Naturally I had to pick and choose the types of jobs I could realistically do; also, I had a little workshop in the basement of my apartment building so I could have access to a vise, a drill press, etc--when I could take the part home overnight and work on it. I even had a canvas cover for the tail gate on the Chevy so that I could park in front of the vehicle being serviced and drape the canvas over the engine bay. I also had a bicycle on the roof, so I could hop on and fetch parts nearby. If it got too cold out, I'd hop in the Chevy and turn on the heater for a while.

    It was hard work at times but actually a great gig. No overhead, mostly cash transactions (or barter with some of the better bars and restaurants), a few romances, and I really learned to think on my feet, and use whatever resources were close at hand. I did tune ups, brakes, electrical, some front end suspension, oil changes, even put a fender on a car and painted it (came out rather well I thought). I had good relationships with alignment shops, parts houses and wrecking yards and I'd even funnel work I could not do over to repair shops, who, in turn, let me use their facilities now and then. I made enough money to go into publishing and never laid on the cold pavement again.

    Of course, you could NEVER get away with that in 2014 San Francisco. They'd flush you out and scatter you in a day's time.

    Life was so much simpler then.


  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,695

    Sounds like a fun gig but as you say, those days are gone forever for a number of reasons.

    How did you ever find places to park? The streets of San Francisco are much like Seattle.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,872

    It wasn't hard to park in San Francisco back then, except maybe in North Beach. Sometimes I could use a person's driveway--just park behind them or perpendicular.

    I was thinking of some creative repairs I did this morning, and I remember one on an old Volvo 544 that had a single barrel Solex carburetor (most had dual SU type). The body of the carb had been badly cracked by some monkey tightened down the gas line inlet to who-knows-how-many foot pounds. Totally unobtainium carburetor. So I went to the wrecking yard to try and match something up. I found a 1-barrel from a Rambler, re-jetted it (because it was running a 6 cylinder), elongated the mounting holes just a touch. Car ran great for years afterwards, although the gas pedal was a bit stiff. Needed just a touch more engineering.


  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,695

    I've owned two 544's and wish I could find another one. Such great little cars!

    In their day, they were only a bit more money than a VW Beetle and SO much car!

    Once lacking a 36 MM socket nor the funds to buy one, I used a big pipe wrench to remove the rear axle nuts on one of my beetles. Between the wrench and a large punch I somehow managed to get the drums off.

    Reinstalled them the same way. Later I learned (and still remember) they were to be torqued to 238 foot pounds and that was a critical number.

    A torque wrench? Who had one of those?

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,971

    I just thought about a cheap repair I did to my '79 5th Ave, years ago. Some clip to the linkage in the carburetor broke, and either it ran really crappy, or it wouldn't start; can't remember now. But anyway, I took a twist tie to it, and it held. Now that I think about it, that's been about 10 years now, if not more. Guess I'd better keep another twist tie handy, just in case!

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,695

    I just remembered cleaning rather than replacing spark plugs and using a file on points.

    The spark plugs were no doubt overdue for replacement along with the points but when we were young and broke we could usually stretch a few more miles out of them.

    At the time, most shops had spark plug cleaning machines. Any other dinosaurs out there that remember those?

  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,715

    I used to clean the plugs in the fintail, until I had an episode where one wouldn't thread back in. Never saw a cleaning machine, would just use a solvent. I never messed around with points, but I remember my dad would do that on old cars - even in the 90s, sometimes they could be hard to find, so he'd use them until they were done. Makes the electronic ignition conversion seem like an even better ideal

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,872

    I remember spark plug cleaning machines! They used some kind of sand to blast away the crude.

    On a Datsun 510, I used to purposely cross the spark plug wires so that the car would backfire through the carburetor, thereby blasting dirt out of the main jets. Japanese carburetors from the 70s and 1980s were notoriously difficult to rebuild---teensy passages inside.


  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America: I70 & I75Posts: 18,191
    edited February 5

    I too remember spark plug cleaners. It seems to me the life was extended some but not as long as the original plugs lasted when new, which was not anything like 100,000 mi like my plugs in my 3800 engines. I recall using a soft wire brush and solvent to clean the plugs to try to extend life on my Fords.

    Add to that resurfacing the ignition points contact area with a file to extend their life.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,695

    @MrShift@Edmunds said: I remember spark plug cleaning machines! They used some kind of sand to blast away the crude.

    On a Datsun 510, I used to purposely cross the spark plug wires so that the car would backfire through the carburetor, thereby blasting dirt out of the main jets. Japanese carburetors from the 70s and 1980s were notoriously difficult to rebuild---teensy passages inside.

    Yep, an old timer taught me that trick many years ago about crossing the plug wires. It really works!

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,872

    It actually DOES work!


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