Manufacturer's design shortcuts

Performance vehicle design (which I presume applies to a Firebird) may require using some sort of plastic (or otherwise light-weight )impeller material to decrease rotating mass and resulting inertia power loss. One of Ray’s recent puzzler is about why new car cooling systems are so difficult to air-bleed, and he says it is b/c the manufacturer’s are trying to increase performance and have a sleek look to the design.

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I can understand why the manufacturers would do that, but isn’t there a fairly simple work-a-round available to a car repairer when the plastic part fails? Replace w/ a common worm-drive hose clamp for example? In other words, car parts don’t need to last forever as long as there is a simple work-a-round when they fail.

A friend that has owned several 5-series Bimmers says her replaces the OEM water pump with a racing water pump that is all metal. Costs more, but never has to be replaced.

All the cars I’ve owned since the 1980s have parts that seem easy to get to, but you need a special wrench to get at the bolts loose. I had to remove a windshield washer reservoir to get at a serpentine belt on one car. On another, I had to remove a strut (not suspension strut) to get at the battery underneath it. To get the plugs out of the rear of a transverse V6 in a minivan, I had to remove the engine mounts on the radiator mount then rotate the engine forward to expose the plugs. That wasn’t enough. I had to pull the coil pack off the top of the engine too.

When it happened on my Ford, I bought new hoses and fittings since the car had almost 80K of Florida hot miles on it. An O-ring kit was available as was the plastic Y. Both cheap.

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I really doubt that. Plenty of cast iron on most Firebird engines.

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I’m glad I never had to change the starter on the aurora, under the intake manifold. I know I’m not as young as I used to be but it was the first time since 1968 I had to have someone else change spark plugs. Just couldn’t get to them.

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Ford makes an overall good product, but there seems to often be some major flaw, like an engine develops a major problem, a transmission that fails due to some design issue or because it is undersized for the engine it was used with, or some major issue like frame rust while the rest of the vehicle holds up fairly well against corrosion.

There is a quick work around for the VWs with fuse box issues related to the fuel pump. Drop the fuse box (easy to do) and remove the pump relay. Bend the 87 terminal out sideways and reinstall. Run a jumper wire from that bent terminal to the green/black wire connector behind the fuse box. A 10 minute fix.

Those cars had CIS injection systems and the pumps work at much higher pressures while drawing far more electrical current than the “normal” FI systems. Those tiny pins and wires would give up under that much of an electrical load.

Another VW electrical glitch was a poor radio antenna cable grommet which was inside the front fender and inches from the fuse box. Water would leak in and short the fuse box out.
If the car was an auto trans it may start cranking and continue to do so until the battery was dead.
With manual trans cars if left in gear sans the park brake they would take off on their own; being propelled by the starter motor.

One lady called the cops and reported her VW stolen. The cops found it a block away. It had rained that night and the car took off on its own until it rammed a utility pole; killing the battery and frying the starter motor in the process. Not to mention dented bumper and busted grille.


I’m surprised no one mentioned the Pinto’s fuel tank.

I read an article in Consumer Reports many years ago that said a Monza required lifting the engine to change the plugs.

Great story! Thanks.

Offering a V-8 engine in a compact car is not a design short-cut, some compromise is expected.

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Was that a Corvair Monza? Mine wasn’t a Monza but I’m pretty sure I put plugs in it.

No, it was the front engine/RWD 1975-80 Monza, which was identical to the Pontiac Sunbird, Olds Starfire, and Buick Skyhawk. These were all built on the old Vega platform, and they had undersized brakes. Many/most owners reported having to do a brake job by 20k miles.

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Yes, especially for 1975 models as they had solid front rotors. '76 up cars got vented rotors. With 13 inch wheels the 9.5 inch diameter rotor was marginal for the V6 cars let alone the V8s.

I had friends that owned V8 cars without AC. The plugs were a pain but didn’t require jacking. The AC cars were worse! My Olds V6 was easy.

How about the cardboard composite head gaskets used in the Daewoo branded vehicles sold here, the first two years of the Chevrolet Aveo, and the contemporaneous Suzuki Forenza, etc? And of course, the ultra-low quality OEM timing belt idler pulley used on these interference engines? Of course, the aftermarket versions are vastly superior, but few people want to spend thousands of dollars on engine repairs on an economy car, which is why so few of them exist today.

It’s been my experience that plastic/aluminum radiators last longer than the old brass/copper ones. I never had a radiator in a 60’s/70’s/80’s car last 200,000 miles.

I don’t use anti-seize anywhere on my car, why would I want that?

If the mfrs weren’t constantly trying to meet CAFE standards then maybe they could add a couple of pounds of weight to a car.

That’s just one more place to leak.

This is already done. I have a car that I can watch the charging voltage go to 12.2 while driving on the freeway. Charging rates are controlled by the ECM and based on battery age, temps, driving conditions, and the time it takes to recharge. But I suppose you are going to complain that you now need a scan tool to reset battery parameters when installing a new battery?

The number of people who want those features is statistically insignificant.

This is done to improve engine performance and to reduce emissions.

In my lifetime I’ve replaced crankshaft seals that were made out of rope, or that came in 2 pieces and had to be slid around the crank. Changing your oil regularly and maintaining your PCV system will do more to prolong seal life.

That’s not the fault of the core support, that’s the fault of a careless driver.

This isn’t 1989, and I have replaced many VF displays. At least I did until carmakers came out with something better.

Not cleaned. Replaced. That problem has also been solved. Window switches no longer carry current to operate the window. They generate a digital signal over the bus that the door module interprets and then operates the motor.


You may not use anti seize on your car but be sure to use it on your snow blower axles so you can get the wheels off again.

Probably because the car surrounding the radiator didn’t last long enough to find out. Seriously, though - if an aluminum radiator is leaking, it’s leaking at the plastic end tank 99 percent of the time.

I miss the transmission drain plugs too. Toyota still seems to do it (or they did up until 2013 - that’s the newest junk I have)!


Timing belts instead of gears. Timing belt driven water pumps. Internal oil pumps. Spark plugs not accessible without a lift. No chassis. No access hole to the fuel pump. No spare tire.

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I bought two new 2004 Aveos. They got passed around to college student family members for years. Both were close to 200,000 very hard miles when sold. No oil burning or leaking and bullet proof transmissions.
But both had the notorious plastic exploding thermostat housings and suspensions that were so loud they were embarrassing going over speed bumps.


I’ll add to that one with Ford’s internal water pump- complete with the seep hole that leaks coolant into the oil when the pump fails.