CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Cost of Car Parts

Back in the early and mid 80s a brand new Subaru could be had for under 10 grand and not a stripped model either.
A new automatic transmission was right at 5 grand sans labor, fluid, and exhaust gaskets.
Try explaining that to a customer. “You mean to tell me the cost of the trans is half the price of the car?”. That was on Subaru because the dealer cost of the trans was a shade under 4 grand.

Some may remember back in the early 80s when some publication priced a new Chevy Citation at 6 grand. They went and priced all of the parts needed across the counter to put together a new Citation. It came to right about 90k dollars.
If nothing else it illustrates just how cheaply the manufacturing process can turn out parts; both by the car maker and their suppliers.

LOL, I remember vacuum wipers! They had minds of their own!

@the same mountainbike The school bus I rode through the 8th grade had vacuum wipers. In heavy downpours, we would all become seasick riding the bus. The driver had to keep letting up on the accelerator to get the wipers to clear the windshield. Years later, I had a 1950 Chevrolet pickup truck with vacuum wipers that behaved the same way. The fuel pump did not have a vacuum booster section. The 1965 Rambler and the 1968 Javelin which I owned at the same time had vacuum wipers. The vacuum motor failed on the Rambler. The only place I could get a replacement was at the Rambler dealer. I installed it right away. Two days later, the vacuum motor failed on the Javelin. When I went back to the Rambler dealer, they didn’t have one in stock and said they had to order one–said some fellow came in and bought the only one we had in our inventory two days ago. Now I never understood why cars in the 1960s still had vacuum wipers. I know that the 1940 Chrysler had electric wipers. I also know that the lower trim line Dodges until 1951 had vacuum wipers while the upper trimlines had electric wipers. The models with the vacuum wipers had a dual section fuel pump with a vacuum booster section. It seems to me that it wouldn’t have been any more expensive to have equipped all the models,with electric wipers since the electric wipers equipped cars had a simpler fuel pump that didn’t have the vacuum booster section.

I never understood why some cars had vacuum wipers that late in the evolution of the automobile either. :confounded: I guess it’ll have to remain on the long, long list of things I’ll never understand. :neutral:

@the same mountainbike Vacuum wipers did have the interval feature. They only cleared the windshield on the interval when the accelerator was released. Back in the 6 volt days when we had generators instead of alternators, current draw may have been a problem. Chrysler products had higher output generators than most other makes back in the six volt days. My parents 1947 DeSoto had electric wipers and it had a six volt system. It also had an eight tube radio and the generator kept up with the load on rainy nights with the lights on, the defroster fan on, the radio playing and the wipers going.

But… in the '60s? :neutral:

Seriously, vacuum wipers were subject to manifold vacuum and simply did not work consistently and reliably. Manifold vacuum spikes when the throttle plate is closed (foot is lifted) and plummets when the car is floored. There’s no way around that. By the ‘60s, cars were all 12volt and electric wipers were a common thing. Why some manufacturers tried to stick with vacuum wipers is beyond me. I understand the perception of a current draw problem on 6 volt systems, although as your parents’ Desoto proved, even at 6VDC a healthy generator should have no problem with electric wipers. I guess some manufacturers were just resistant to change.

Thank your lucky stars you’ve never had to deal with a mid 30s and earlier Harley. They did not have mechanical oil pumps.
The oil tank was one half of the fuel tank duo and there was a hand pump for the oil.

Give it half a dozen squirts, motor on, pump, motor, pump,… :wink:

I’m sorry I haven’t read all the responses yet but there are many factors involved in the final pricing to a consumer. One certainly is volume where there is a fixed cost for the dies and so on to produce a part and the more you make the less the set up cost is a factor. Then there is the cost of carrying an item in inventory on the shelf. Limited shelf space and someone has to pay for the part while it sits on the shelf.