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Cheap repairs we made when we were young and broke.



  • kinleykinley Member Posts: 854
    Washtucna, Dusty and the Colfax cutoff via the airport road? When there I was a GDI, graduating '55 when you were a Freshman. Try driving over the hill and leaving your car all day in the parking lot between Holland Library and the CUB today.
  • danf5danf5 Member Posts: 38
    Back when, I had a Touring-bodied iron block 2 liter Alfa. One day, shortly after getting on the freeway, the engine stopped revving. Dropped back to idle, wouldn't respond to throttle. So I coasted to the side of the berm, left it running, and had a look.

    Yep, the throttle cable had let go. Somehow managed to find the ends and tie them together, not a good or a long-term solution.

    Later called our local Alfa/Lotus dealer (as you'd expect from the cars he sold, a crook with an incompetent and very expensive shop) about getting a replacement. Large problem, my car didn't match the parts book. It really didn't, much of the hardware wasn't as listed. The way of the Alfa Romeo is dangerous. Cable could be fabricated, send money.

    So went to the local good bike (as in bicycle, yes, human-powered), found a stainless brake cable about the right diameter and too long, and improvised. Was still working just fine when I sold the car a year later.
  • timz58timz58 Member Posts: 44
    On occasion the route did include Dusty, Washtucna and Colfax. Unfortunately, my college career was short-lived due to a concentration of Idaho drinking laws and majoring in party, beer and recreation. Went back to Moscow in the mid '70's and had a part ownership in a dive called Mort's Club but that is another story. Don't know where you are located but we go to the Moscow-Pullman area 2 or 3 times a year and go up 84 to Umatilla and then North on 95 to Tri Cities. Next trip, try taking the Kalotus cutoff from 95 through to Washtucna. It cuts off about 20 miles and is good two lane road with no pesky hiway patrol...........usually about 85 MPH through there. One more cheap car fix I saw in those good old days was on a Chevy 216 motor. These beasts were cursed with a "dip and pray" (max-15 PSI oil pressure) poured babbit bearing connecting rod system that resulted in many rods through the engine block when pushed too hard. There were shims installed under the rod cap to provide the necessary clearance between the crankshaft journal and the bearing surface. If you kind of babied it along (55-60 MPH, they would run a long time before they started knocking due to the bearing surface wearing out. The shims could be removed to tighten up the loose rod and away you went. When all the shims were gone, you could put the rod cap in a vise and get out your big flat [non-permissible content removed] file and file both sides of the rod cap and get a little more out of the rod. This was a "temporary" fix that sometimes lasted for years. Along those lines, a friend had a Dodge power wagon and it started knocking. This problem was solved by dropping the pan, removing the rod cap and using a piece of 400 grit emory cloth on the journal to remove the scoring. He then installed a .010" undersize bearing and was on the road again. This held together long enough to get the truck sold dirt cheap to some poor unsuspecting fellow who drove it for the next five years without a problem.
  • kinleykinley Member Posts: 854
    That was our engine in our '39 Master DeLuxe and you are right on as to cruising speed. 55 was where we sat as it had a 4:11 rear end. When funds were low and the sun was out, the hose to the WS wipers was disconnected to enable more air into the engine, running leaner, saving fuel, but also not good on the valves. JC Whitney sold a rocker arm cover that you would soak in a gallon of oil and then place on top just before installing the valve cover. After adjusting the valve lash 06 intake and 13 exhaust it was decided a noisy Chev was a healthy Chev. Ah yes, those were the days.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342

    Another topic I'll try to revive since it did pretty well 12 years ago.

    Any "when we were young and broke stories to tell?

    I remember I had an old Falcon with a badly worn out idler arm that I "fixed" with a stack of washers.

  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 56,187

    Fintail, college student, leaking FI line - JB Weld should do the trick. It didn't.

    Also once had a leaking brake line that instead of doing an emergency repair, I chose to just limp home and be careful. Yay for uphill off ramps.

  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,387

    I've driven a few cars brake-less, in my time. I've found that if you just pace yourself, try to time the lights, downshift alot, keep plenty of distance from the car ahead of you, apply the parking brake as necessary, etc, it's not so bad.

    I have found that old Mopars with the handbrake under the dash are easier to control than old GM cars with the foot brake. The foot brake seems more designed for one panic stop, and then you have to release it with a separate lever (or pump it again to release on some nicer cars), but with the pull-handle on the Mopars, it just seemed to lend itself easier to applying just the pressure you need.

  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 56,187

    The fintail's automatic can work better as a semi-automatic - works better if you shift yourself. That saved me when I operated with no brakes. I calculated that I had a few stops before the fluid would empty - so I shifted a lot and timed it well. It probably felt more dangerous than it really was. Oh yeah, parking brake didn't work either B)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481

    Coming home on Route 50 through Nevada in a Saab Turbo. Suddenly, out there in the middle of NOWHERE, I smell and see smoke coming out of the hood. Pull over--CV boot split wide open, spewing grease onto hotexhaust. Nearest town about 30 miles. Creep along as best I can, waiting for the horrible screech or BANG! Find a gas station. Buy a roll of duct tape and he SELLS me a dixie cup full of wheel bearing grease. Lay under the car, trying to pack grease into the ripped boot while not getting any on the sticky tape. Took about one miserable hour. Wrapped it up so that the boot looked more like a watermelon. Took off for home. Car vibrated but...made it back 500 miles that way and for some weeks thereafter. Mechanic cursed me royally as he had to cut through that mess.

  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 218,728

    When I bought the '76 CJ-5 (in 1980), the accelerator pedal had broken off at the hinge.. The owner had a pair of vise-grips he used as a pedal. When we were done with the deal and I was getting ready to drive off, he wanted the vise-grips back!! I told him that I didn't think so...

    I was still using the vise-grips for a pedal, when I rolled the Jeep, two years later..

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  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454

    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.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342

    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 Member Posts: 64,481
    edited January 2014

    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 Member Posts: 20,342

    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 Member Posts: 64,481

    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 Member Posts: 20,342

    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 Member Posts: 25,387

    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 Member Posts: 20,342

    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 Member Posts: 56,187

    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 Member Posts: 64,481

    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 Member Posts: 26,791
    edited February 2014

    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.

    2014 Malibu 2LT, 2015 Cruze 2LT,

  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342

    @[email protected] 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 Member Posts: 64,481

    It actually DOES work!

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