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Mechanical Myths

guess notThe world of car repair is full of great stories about magical products, miracle fixes and mechanical wonderments.  There are also temporary fixes that will get you home, but that is about it.

“I will put some of this in it, and it will be fine.”  If it is leaking, it will continue to leak.  Magic fluids may help in an emergency, but eventually the leak will come back and it will need to be fixed properly.  Magic leak-stopping fluids may get you home, but they are not a permanent fix.

“I put a can of freon with leak-stop in it every month or so.  It fixes it.”  Not really.  The air conditioner is still leaking, and it is not fixed.  Freon is expensive, and while the fix could be a compressor, evaporator or condenser that is leaking, it could be something as easy as an o-ring.  Get it checked.

“Just put used parts in it.  They’re as good as new, and lots cheaper.”  Sometimes you cannot find new parts, but new are always better than used.

“You don’t need to change the brake rotors when you replace the pads.  They’re just wanting to get more money out of you.”  While there is always controversy on this one, replacing pads without new rotors – or at least resurfacing the old ones – is a mistake.  Pads bed themselves to the rotors, and a smooth clean surface is required.  If not, the pads will not work at peak efficiency.

“Aftermarket parts are alway inferior to dealer parts.”  Not so fast there Skippy.  You can almost always say that the dealer will be more expensive on some things, but our cars are old and some of the new parts offered aftermarket take advantage of advances in metallurgy, manufacturing process and better materials.  Do your research.  Don’t automatically discount aftermarket, and also shop the dealer.  Both may surprise you.

“My dad and I rebuilt the 350 in his wagon when I was a kid.  It was easy.  I could do that, I can fix this.”  Components in our cars can be complicated and require special knowledge, skill and tools.  If you think that you are over your head, get professional help.  Shop for someone with experience, the right tools and a proper shop space to do the job right.  It could be cheaper in the long run.


“It will work for now” Story

fuel line.jpgI drove my 924S from Florida to Minneapolis some years ago to visit my sister and her family there.  When it was time to head home, I noticed an increasingly intense smell of fuel from under the hood – and yes, the high-pressure fuel line had a very small pinhole, and it was leaking.  Onto the spark plugs.  Not good.  I called the local Porsche dealer to find that the offending line was just under $1,000, and the repair would be another $1,000 in labor.  And the repair would take a week or more because the part had to be shipped from Germany on a slow boat.  I declined, and instead headed for Home Depot.  Yes, Home Depot, your choice for Porsche parts.

home depot
America’s #1 Stop for Porsche Parts!

At the Home Depot, I secured the parts and tools that I needed, remembering that I just needed to get home – 1200 miles away.  I also did not bring any tools with me.  So at checkout, I had:

  • Duct Tape (Black)
  • Flexible rubber connector, 2″ x 4″ long, normally used for connecting two PVC drain pipes.
  • Four Hose Clamps
  • Paper Towels
  • Razor Knife
  • Flat Screwdriver
  • Adjustable Wrench

So I then went to the parking lot, opened the hood, and using the wrench, bled the fuel pressure down.  I used paper towels to thoroughly clean the leaking hose of fuel and debris.  Then using the black Duct Tape and the razor knife, I carefully cut pieces of tape to cover and tightly wrap the leaking area and the area on each side, creating an overlapping duct tape patch about four inches long.  Knowing that the leaking high-pressure gasoline would kill the adhesive and the tape in short order, the tape was there only to act as a cushion between the leaky rubber hose and the rubber patch that I was about to install.

944 engineI cut the rubber connector longways, then figured out where to cut is again so that the rubber fit around the duct tape cushion and met itself.  With the semi-precise cutting done, I used the four hose clamps to secure the rubber collar I had made in place over the duct tape.  One at each end, the other two in place between them.  Start the car, see what happens.

Letting the car idle in the parking lot while watching closely for drips or sprays was tedious, but after about fifteen minutes, I was satisfied that the repair was holding, at least for the time being.

On the trip south, I noted that there was no smell of fuel from anywhere in the car.  I checked at each gas stop, wiping the repair with a dry paper towel and coming up dry each time!  I got home with no further fuel leaking issues.

However, this is where my own words come to haunt me.

I didn’t permanently fix this very temporary repair for another seven months, and in the process using the 924S every day.  In my own defense, there was no “kit fix” solution out there at the time, and I just didn’t know how to fix it.  One day I was at a friend’s race shop – he ran a school for short-track cars – and the topic of the suspect repair came up.  Later that week I showed back up at the shop with my car and he fabricated a braided steel fuel line with the proper metric end and a compression fitting for the hard line.  It was now properly fixed.

Today there are repair kits for replacing the flexible portion of the fuel lines.  Since engine fires from bad flex lines are all too common, I make it a point to replace these lines on every car I work on.  And while my Home Depot Porsche Fuel Line Repair makes a great story, I will not do it again.  I got lucky.


So what is the message here?  

fixing door .jpgFixing what is wrong with your Porsche is important, and doing it the right way adds to longevity.  And it doesn’t matter if it is something like a leaky fuel line or a bad switch or a sunroof with stripped gears – fixing it to make it work as it did when new is important.. There is a “slippery slope” that starts with little things like burnt out light bulbs or a bad switch that are ignored; then bigger things are ignored or repaired badly.  Eventually, the car turns into “junk” that you no longer want to drive.  I don’t know how many 944s I have encountered with minor problems that were left in the garage or the carport, assigned to eventually rot away.

So resolve to fix it, and fix it right when it breaks.  Temporary fixes are okay, but do it right.

IMG_2932
“Sparky” who performs mechanical miracles

Edit 9-13-2018:  Yesterday I was driving my white ’87 924S (named “Sparky” due to his history that includes an engine fire). While waiting to pull out of a parking lot onto International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona I was struck in the rear by a large Chevrolet pickup.  There was no body damage, but the right side of the rear bumper was pushed in on the bumper shock and the plastic/rubber filler at the right end of the bumper was deformed.  I was not happy, but…so be it.  I have a 924S/944 used parts business and I could fix it myself.

So…I continued on my way, did my errands and went home, driving about 45 miles. When the truck hit me, I called my wife to tell her what happened.  Upon arriving home, she came out to see how badly Sparky had been damaged.  I wanted to show her, but to my surprise the damage was gone – driving it worked the bumper back out to its original spot and the plastic fill panel was back in its original shape.

In other words, Sparky fixed himself.  Mechanical Self-Healing does work! 

I stand corrected…

Kevin Duffy, Author and Chief Geek View All

Kevin Duffy is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Daytona State College in Florida and a dedicated car guy. He divides his time between teaching criminal justice topics in the online environment and working on/driving cars, particularly Porsches. Kevin is one of the principals in InspiringLifeOver50.com.

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