Manufacturer's design shortcuts

I have often said here that it takes more time to clean your toilet than to check the oil in your car, yet the vast majority of the motoring public clean their toilet more often than checking their oil.

Yes, dishwasher talk too. I explain to the wife that I was a professional dish washer and toilet cleaner so listen to what I say. And this was before those disposable gloves that everyone has now. So wash your hands afterwards.

The local shop quoted me $600 to replace the heater core in my 98 Dodge Ram. I’m not sure when that was exactly- early to mid 2000’s, I’d think. The shop owner said the entire dash had to come out and “it sounds like a good job for you”. Seemed like an odd comment. Kinda smart alecky maybe. So, I took it home, ordered the parts, and did it myself. Easier than I expected, really, although kind of cramped and tedious. I can say a lot of negative things about Daimler Chrysler, but most of the wiring and vacuum lines went to a central junction block and the majority of the dashboard could be removed as a single unit rather than piecemeal (probably for ease of assembly) and it made the job a whole lot easier I’m sure. I’ve removed and installed dashes in two different vehicles. I don’t really want to do it again, but a shop would probably charge closer to $1k these days. Can’t say that I blame them, though.

Unfortunately, I was working a M-F, 7-4 job, had no home garage at that time, and realized that my lack of experience with this type of repair probably meant that I shouldn’t attempt it on my own. If I had attempted it on my own, it probably would have taken me 3 or 4 weekends, and I would have had to pay for a rental car for a few weeks, so the theoretical cost saving is… questionable. The dealership gave me a loaner car–at no extra cost–while they were working on it.

Getting back to shortcuts taken by manufacturers that make their goods difficult or impossible to repair, some years back, Proctor-Silex had a line of small household appliances that were built in modules that could be disassembled and reassembled without tools. If the heating element failed in a toaster, the defective module containing the element could easily be replaced by the consumer. The product line didn’t sell and Proctor-Silex went back to the conventional way of making toasters, coffee makers, etc. We got an expensive Sunbeam toaster for a wedding gift. A heating element burned out, so the bread was only toasted on one side. When the toast popped, I would turn it around and toast the other side. The element was riveted in and couldn’t be replaced. I eventually replaced the toaster with a cheap one from K-Mart.
Years ago, Zenith televisions were built with hand wired chassis that could easily be repaired. The consumer didn’t care and purchased a cheaper set with printed circuit boards.
I bought a cheap Vizio television at Target. It quit playing during the warranty period. According to the warranty, I was to pay to ship the set to an authorized repair station. I was tempted to toss the set, but finally decided to call the company and get authorization to ship the set. Instead, the company sent a technician to my house who swapped out a circuit board and had the set working in ten minutes. The tech spent another half hour at my house playing with the dog. I find there are fewer things I can repair myself.

Same hours I had. I did have a garage, though. I took off on a Friday when my wife was going to be out of town. Intended to work on it Fri and Sat, but wound up starting Thursday afternoon, then starting early Friday and working until midnight or so and finishing it up other than recharging the AC. Had another shop charge the AC Saturday AM. Worked out pretty well.

But I reallly hope I don’t have to do it again.

The other one I did was a 94 Silverado that I rescued from becoming scrap metal. Swapped the broken dash for one out of another truck that was in better condition. So, I had to remove twice, install once! 1.5 times the work. But I had plenty of time on that one and somewhat enjoyed it.

I still don’t think I want to do it again though!

I have a neighbor, his family & guests were blocking my driveway. Almost every week I’d complain. He’d say it wouldn’t happen any more. Then the next week it would happen again. Finally after a dozen complaints I said to him “You know I don’t like it when you and your guests block my driveway. It’s a violation of traffic code and my rights of ingress and egress. So why do you continue to do it?” His reply, with a sly smile: “We didn’t think you’d catch us!”

After that I consulted with the Sherriff’s office, they told me to make a photo record every time it occurred, and to call them if their car is preventing me from leaving. The very next day one of the guests was blocking my driveway, so I called the Sherriff’s office, they asked me if I had the photo evidence, licensce plate # etc, and said they’d take care of it. I had to leave, was able to snake my way out of the driveway. When I come back the family is out in front, one of the teenage kids yells at me “You A*****” !!! … No chastisement from the parents at all.

So you are right, these days it seem many folks don’t care about being polite & considerate.

Still continue to have them or their guests blocking my driveway, thankfully not as often.

Circa 1971, I bought a Proctor-Silex Life Long coffeemaker for my parents because of the promised "easy module-based repairs:. It never actually needed to be repaired, which is fortunate because the promised parts availability from hardware stores proved to be a myth.

I don’t consider the timing belt to be a design shortcut myself. It’s a lightweight economical way to sync the crankshaft to the camshaft. True, if not properly maintained it can cause problems, but there are many car parts like that. Even if you have to replace it every 60,000 miles, not that big of a deal.

A timing belt service can be as much as 1200.00 if someone has to have it done . And that can be a major expense for a lot of people so it is a big deal .

Especially if it is dad paying the bill. I think it was only $550 then though.

I don’t think a $1200 expense every 5 years (assuming 12 k miles per year) is an unexpected bill associated with car ownership. It’s less than $250 per year. How much does a years of gasoline cost?

And the frugal diy’er can reduce that expense to few hundred dollars every 5 years and an afternoon under the hood in the driveway.

We have had to take relatives to the grocery store because their situation was that paying rent , utilities and car payment so they could get to work was about all they could handle . George , you are fortunate that you and the people you know can find 1200.00 .

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A lot of shops won’t “work with you” when it comes to those jobs

Meaning they will not recover the AC, then you do your thing, and they recharge after you’re done

Because they want the ENTIRE job, among other reasons

Your 1992 Corolla is a 4-cylinder

I’m pretty sure you’d be singing a different tune if you were changing a timing belt in a vehicle with a transverse V-6


I had a PT Cruiser. For heater core the whole dash d had to come out. Including brake pedal gas pedal and center console. There was literally nothing left but the firewall. Had to take the whole HVAC out of the car to split it and remove core. I replaced the evaporator while it was apart. I followed the manual and there were no shortcuts. 8 hrs book time. Took me 24 hrs.

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Yeah, I’m sure. Some will. So I go to those.

Bear in mind that Irving Berlin could only play the piano in one key, so he had a transposing piano built that shifted the soundboard and strings in relation to the hammers so he could transpose just by moving a lever. I personally have trouble at this point playing the black keys so I pretty much play everything in the key of “C”.

Perhaps. I can only speak from my own experience, timing belt equipped 1.6 L 4-banger Corolla. That job is pretty time consuming compared to most of the other routine maintenance tasks for that car, but is certainly doable for many driveway diy’ers who want to greatly reduce the $1200 shop fee. Of course there’s other engine configurations besides the 1.6 L Corolla and a timing belt equipped V6. I presume replacing a timing chain or a variable valve timing component aren’t particularly simple jobs either. It’s a compromise that the car buyer needs to consider before deciding which make/model/year/engine & transmission configuration.

Well, to be fair, I did the timing belt in my 1995 Dodge Caravan with the 3.0L engine, and it was my first foray into working on cars. And it took almost 6 months start to finish, as I broke additional parts, found additional parts bad, found that I needed to buy more tools to finish the job, etc. Each time, I paused the work for another week, while I ordered the parts/tools online to keep costs down.

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I once spent 45 minutes trying to prove to a warranty inspector that a heater core was leaking on a Dodge Ram. Coolant odor was present through the vents, but he wanted to see coolant dripping, they don’t always leak bad enough to drip.

He eventually saw a drip after a period of time with the pressure tester on the cooling system. The job only paid 1.9 hours of warranty time, the initial inspection and time with the inspector nearly used up that amount of time, now I still need to replace the heater core.

This is where the manufacture extended warranty divisions profit, they can get that $600 job completed for $250- $300.