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Made by Monkeys

Entering the Auto Part Abyss

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autoengineer
User Rank
Iron
Design Life and Parts Support
autoengineer   9/4/2014 9:08:31 PM
NO RATINGS
As a retired auto design engineer I'd like to clarify some points made by several posters to these issues. First, cars are designed to last at least 10 years or 100,000 miles. The vehicle and laboratory tests performed on every component and system, as well as the complete vehicle, ensure the vast majority of actual vehicles and parts will last that long without failure. However every part and vehicle sold to every customer can't be tested - there's a statistical probability some will fail before this goal and some will never fail. Part of the reason for this is there are minor variations that occur in the manufacturing processes - materials, dimensions and fits, assembly, etc. Second, every car manufacturer pays particular attention during the design phase to serviceability and accessibility, however with so much hardware packaged into tight spaces often compromises have to be made. This doesn't excuse this, but it's a fact of life. Third, Federal law requires every manufacturer (not just autos) to provide service parts for 7 years or as demand dictates for economical operation. Every auto manufacturer has a Service Parts operation - I used to get called often for parts that could be used for older vehicles with discontinued parts. Therefore, if your dealer can't get the service part you need, ask them to contact their Service Parts representative to obtain a part that can be used or for a recommendation for what you can do. There are regional Service Parts representatives in every part of the US who are very knowledgeable and conscientious to satisfy the customer.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Known old problem
William K.   7/24/2014 4:45:35 PM
NO RATINGS
In regard to the power steering hose being an odd-ball type, I had a similar problem with brake lines on an older van. But my choice was to cut off the special fitting and install standard industrial 5000PSI hydraulic tube fittings. Not that they were cheaper, but that they were available from stock at many distributors. I did need to add a couple of additional clamps to support the brake lines, but those probably should have been put in when the van was built. As long as adequate rated fittings are used they should work quite well in automotive applications. It may not save any money, but the parts are almost always in stock.

SherpaDoug
User Rank
Gold
Not all dark
SherpaDoug   7/24/2014 3:32:18 PM
NO RATINGS
I had the opposite experience with my VW Rabbit a few years ago.  The oil pressure switch had started to leak oil.  I went to the parts store with the all the usual info, make, model, year, engine size, etc.  The clerk looked it up in the book and grinned.  He showed me the entry" Oil Pressure switch, fits Volkswagon - All models, 1943 to present."  If you don't NEED to change something, don't.

T.W. Day
User Rank
Iron
Re: Very good thread
T.W. Day   7/10/2014 8:18:58 PM
NO RATINGS
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
User Rank
Iron
Re: Ford Contour
John Waron   7/10/2014 9:13:45 AM
NO RATINGS
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.

kid-jensen
User Rank
Silver
Re: Known old problem
kid-jensen   7/10/2014 7:01:41 AM
NO RATINGS
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
User Rank
Platinum
Known old problem
Larry M   7/9/2014 8:09:20 PM
NO RATINGS
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

TRCSr
User Rank
Silver
Re: RockAuto.com
TRCSr   7/9/2014 6:31:56 PM
NO RATINGS
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.

cookiejar
User Rank
Gold
Re: RockAuto.com
cookiejar   7/9/2014 4:46:10 PM
NO RATINGS
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.

jtcronin
User Rank
Iron
Auto Parts
jtcronin   7/9/2014 4:21:00 PM
NO RATINGS
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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