Made by Monkeys

Entering the Auto Part Abyss

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T.W. Day
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Re: Very good thread
T.W. Day   7/10/2014 8:18:58 PM
I think this response is typical of the children who are involved in manufacturing today; from the design and manufacturing engineers to the complete fools squattingin the CEO's offices. When you are asking $15,000-90,000 for a consumer product, that product has more expectations than simple minded "design life." For most American consumers, a car purchase is the equivalent of a year's expendable income or, even, an actual year's salary. Regardless of the poor quality, designed-to-fail 10-15 year specification (which if it were expressed clearly to consumers would result in a massive loss of sales for a brand), new car buyers expect to be able to sell their car for a reasonable return on the original investment. While that reasonable return is typically a completely foolish 20-50% of original cost, if it were well known (as it is with some brands and models) that manufacturer support, aftermarket part availablity, and expected useage were limited to 10-15 years those brands and models would be worthless in resale.

Several brands have taken that exact step and had to be bailed out during the most recent depression. They aren't knocking down the barn door now that the economy has rebounded somewhat, either. Companies like Volkswagen that arrogantly cut off factory support at exactly the German required 7-year support limit are almost gone from the US market (fallen from 30%+ of the market in the mid-80's to less than 2% and falling today). A throwaway product (one with a 10-15 year expected lifetime) would be expected to be well inside of discretionary income levels for the average middle class family. Which is why companies like VW, Chrystler, and GM do not rank higher in consumer quality surveys than the Chinese and Korean cars that are at that price point.

Companies that ignore customer service expectations will, eventually, earn a reputation for poor quality, lousy service, and their products will become worthless in the used market costing new sales and consumer confidence. Children who have yet to consider long range consequennces to their actions do not belong in decision-making positions, but in most US corporatiosn they are exactly the characters who rise to the top. There is a long distance between making cars with similar components, so that those parts remain available over a reasonable period, and buying off-the-shelf parts from NAPA. However, I doubt that many American corporate clones will figure that out before they need, again, to be saved from their own incompetence by the American taxpayers. Next time, I would recommend that the government clean house a lot further down the corporate ladder than just the CEO. The rot goes a lot further than one or two layers from the top. Mercedes figured that out when they foolishly assumed there was some talent in Chrystler's management in one of the dumbest corporate purchases in history.

John Waron
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Re: Ford Contour
John Waron   7/10/2014 9:13:45 AM
The Ford Contour DEFINTELY belongs in the "Made By Monkeys" category. While I've had other cars with a few issues, the 1995 Contour my wife and I owned takes the prize for biggest piece of junk ever. So much went wrong with it it's hard to know where to start.


4 or 5 mass airflow sensors (~$500 each)

the entire stainless exhaust system. It's a one piece assembly. Because of a crack in a flexible section at the midpoint. Hidden below some braided steel. (~$1,000)

Both coil springs at the front suspension. They simply cracked into 2 pieces.

All of the plastic window cranks broke off. This car didn't have power windows. Probably a good thing.

The A/C was broken most of the time. We chose to not fix it 'cause it was very expensive to do so and would probably break soon after anyway.

There was a point where I had to change the license plates on it. Ordinarily this is a 5 minute task. Not on this car. On this car someone thought it a good idea to use ordinary zinc plated #8 round head machine screws that threaded into brass inserts that were molded into a largish plastic insert in the trunk lid. By the time the state sent brand new plates for the car those screws had rusted tight to the inserts. I took it to the dealer hoping that they had some special knowlege for releasing those screws. No, they didn't. The service writer said that I'd have to buy a new plastic insert for the trunk. They'd paint it to match. $300. Well, my reply, in front of other customers was "Allow me to paraphrase you. "It will cost $300 to change the license plates." How silly does that sound to you? Can you hear yourself speak?" I asked if he could get one of their techs to simply drill the screws out and replace them with some stainless screws and nuts. Oh, no, they don't do *that* kind of work there. I said "you mean work that gets the car fixed." I took the car back home and drilled the screws out myself.

Tons of other things went wrong with that car. Simple things. Things that never break on other cars. I became afraid that one day I'd go out to it and find that all the paint had fallen off. When my son became old enough to drive, that became his first car. Seriously underpowered. A great first car for a boy.

If we had not purchased the longest warranty with the best coverage for it (8 years to cover everything with no deductibles) I'm certain that we would have traded it in or sold it far sooner than we did. It lasted 10 years with us. Then my son traded that car and $1,000 for a different one. We heard that two weeks after my son trading it that the transmission in that Contour failed. That was the death knell for that car.

Truly, the Ford Contour was not only made by monkeys, it was designed by them as well.

User Rank
Re: Known old problem
kid-jensen   7/10/2014 7:01:41 AM
Ed, You have just had an unpleasant lesson in the finances of making and selling cars.

Much as supporting local industry is to be applauded, a purchase every 16 years is not what Ford would want as a target customer.

It's a sad fact that Car companies these days are only interested in the first owner, and only for the Guarantee period....after that, you're considered a bloody nusicence.

Nobody who has seen under the bonnet of my Audi Allroad would be in no doubt that ease of maintenance is not a design consideration in a modern car.

So long as the dealers are kept happy, the Car Makers are happy. The consumer just has to keep on paying.





Larry M
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Known old problem
Larry M   7/9/2014 8:09:20 PM
This problem with the Ford power steering problem has been covered in the forums over and over again. My son had one of these and had the same problems. Yes, it was stupid of Ford to accept this underdesigned assembly from its suppliers. And it was stupid of Ford not to revise the design when it saw replacement orders skyrocketing. And yes it was stupid of Ford to not make a big lifetime buy when closing out the parts after seven years, given the rate at which they were failing.

As noted, Dorman Products has made a business out of supplying the parts with high failure rates. Sometimes they even redesign the replacement to be more robust.

Don't get me started on the GM Ride Control. It should be the subject of another Made by Monkeys.

Larry M

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Re: RockAuto.com
TRCSr   7/9/2014 6:31:56 PM
It isn't just Ford anymore. I have a 2013 Camaro that I have had enough problems with that I could make my own contribution to MBM about them. As evidenced by all the GM recalls recently they have a lot of QC problems. And the dealerships do not help the problem by their attitude and incompetence. A vehicle only 16 years old should not have a problem with getting replacement parts for, but I had to wait a week to get a part for a car less than a year old.

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Re: RockAuto.com
cookiejar   7/9/2014 4:46:10 PM
Rockauto.com does show power steering pressure and return hose assemblies for your vehicle.  In fact you have a handful of manufacturers to choose from.

I couldn't find the pressure proportioning value you seem to refer to unless it's part of the master cylinder, which again you have a wide pick of manufacturers at the site.

You might want to try e-mailing them or phoning.

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Auto Parts
jtcronin   7/9/2014 4:21:00 PM
Don't you just love it?  How many power steering hoses has Ford made?  Millions, right?  And why do the hoses on your Ford have to be different?  Does anyone in Ford's engineering department read this column?  

With 4 kids, all driving, and a couple in college at the same time I've become quite expert at keeping old cars running.  And yes car parts are a constant struggle.  Many auto makers have cut back their inventories of parts, usually requiring you to wait for them and/or pay more for them.  Many auto makers don't carry parts for older cars as long as they did in the past.  They shift that burden to their suppliers and the aftermarket.  

My first suggestion is to find a good independent mechanic, not someone who works in a dealer or an auto repair chain store.  A good independent mechanic may know if there are any tricks to solve your problem.  There may be a good aftermarket repair kit.  (I give my independent mechanic a case of beer every few months.)

My local library has the AllData auto repair database.  I use it to look up the OEM part numbers I need.  Sometime's I will call a dealer or email the auto maker to get the part numbers.  For hard to find parts, having that OEM part number can be a necessity. 

Next find a good car parts store.  Find a store that can figure stuff out and has access to many parts makers.  I've had good luck with Advanced Auto Parts and O'Reilly, and not so good luck with Autozone.  Your experience can be different from store to store.  An Autozone near you may be very helpful.  It depends.  You need to find a store with good people.  

 You can visit the website of most auto parts stores, find parts, find out who makes them, etc.  Sometimes the parts don't fit or work.  It is helpful to visit the aftermarket makers website and double check.  There are firms like Dorman who make lots of aftermarket replacement parts. If it looks like Dorman (for example) makes the parts you need, they have a good website.

Firms like Gates make many replacement hoses and belts for cars.  They even make complete belt, pulley, and tensioner kits.  If you can find out who makes the type of parts you need, they may be able to help you.  A few minutes of research and a few emails can often produce results.

There are some very good Internet based auto parts services.  I've had good luck with Rockauto and Tirerack.  I just bought an ignition wire set for an 8 year old Subaru from Rockauto.  The dealer didn't have them in stock and wanted some vital organs for them.  The auto parts stores failed me.  Rockauto saved the day.  I had a tire under warranty fail.  The dealer couldn't get a replacement.  Tirerack could and did.  And then the dealer wanted me to PAY them replace their tire under their warranty, they they couldn't fix.

Yes, we've gone the junk yard route.  There's a new problem with junk yards.  Many of them have stopped carring parts for cars older than 10 or 15 years.  Getting parts for our '89 Buick which I donated to a charity a couple years ago, was getting really rough.  

Then I found another trick!  There are used auto parts firms that maintain a large inventory and operate over a large region.  Yancey's in Missouri, Brothers in Indianapolis are a couple examples.  Some firms may specialize is specific types of cars.  Your independent mechanic may know of some good firms.  If there is an "enthusiast's" group for your car -- they will know good places to get parts.

For cars older than 15 years you can get parts if the it was (1) a big seller or (2) was a classic.  If the car wasn't too popular -- you better think about selling it.  Sorry.

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older car pitfall
John   7/9/2014 4:17:32 PM
I agree you shouldn't have to, but checkout the replacement steering pump.  I bet it has a more standard connection on it.  Steering pumps are not too bad to change out.  Just be sure to take your time filling it up with fluid and work all the air out of the system. 

Hydraulic stuff should use standard fittings and nothing custom built.  I can see why the current manufacturing model doesn't continue to support something past 7 years.  But I can still get the 3 cable heater actuator set for my 1967 mustang from Ford.  Brand new.  I don't know of anything that still uses that.  It still has the old Ford part number on it.  Explain that one.  We bought the last brand new 1937 John Deer GP tractor sector steering gear from John Deer a few years ago.  Having an older automobile has it's own pitfalls, but I think 7 year support is much too short when compared to the price tag of a brand new car or truck.  If 7 years wasn't a law, they would probably break those factory tools and burn the prints before the first of the new model rolled off the line.


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Re: Very good thread
WashMIEd   7/9/2014 3:55:22 PM
For a column called "Designed by Monkeys", I disagree that this is a very good thread.  Poor customer service is not a design flaw; it is evidence of a corporate culture.  In fact, many of these "Designed by Monkeys" stories are evidence of problems other than poor design. 

Having said that, I would also ask (rhetorically) how many other consumer products would one expect to be able to buy repair parts for when they are 16 years old or more?  The design life of an automobile is generally considered to be 10 - 15 years.  It also seems that both of the complaints sound like ones that don't necessary mandate the use of OEM repair parts to correct anyway - a little MacGyver-style creativity goes a long way.  To continue operating a vehicle of that age successfully, you need to either (a) have this skill set yourself, or (b) find a trustworthy mechanic with such skills (and be willing to pay for same). 

Finally, if cars were designed and built using off-the-shelf parts you could buy at the hardware store or an outlet like Grainger, they would cost a lot more to purchase and would be less reliable than they are. 

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Bad Parts
wbswenberg   7/9/2014 3:50:52 PM
I replaced the water pump on my 84 toy 4X4 Pickup a number of times.  I thought I was over tighting the tensioner.  So finally I bought a factory pump.  I have not changed the pump since then.  The belt some times squealls but then it has allway done that.  

I've worked on the WIFE's MG Midget.  Looks like you can built one from parts.

Same with the Ford Model A.  It would be prohibitively expensive but you could build one from parts.  And Oh I'm a Chevty guy.  The last good Ford is the one I have.  Sorry for you other guys.

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