The customers that shops deal with


It was common professional courtesy to get a customers approval for any work that exceeded the estimate all those years ago when I first began charging to repair cars and I assumed that it was still done these days.

And back way back then anyone who replaced a starter or generator or fuel pump, etc was considered a “parts changer” and not a mechanic. Fuel pumps, carburetors and even water pumps were rebuilt by mechanics until the 1970s when replacing parts became standard practice.


That’s interesting, the part about rebuilding rather than replacing. I’ve never considered rebuilding a water pump, but if you think about it - there’s just a bearing, shaft, and impeller to replace. The rest is just a cast piece of aluminum.

I guess everyone’s in a bigger hurry these days and it’s quicker to just replace rather than rebuild.


I can’t say exactly where or when but I’m pretty sure part of the 58 Chevy tune up at the dealer was turning down the generator and putting new brushes in.


I had my wife and kids in the car Saturday, on the way to a park in our 56 Studebaker when the fuel pump diaphragm ruptured. We were near a Western Auto store. Regular auto parts stores were either not open on Sat . then or maybe closed at noon. For young people who were never in a Western Auto, they were a auto parts/ hardware,/ toy store that were open every day. The had rebuilding kits for almost every US car. I got a kit for my Studebaker, it came with a new arm, diaphragm and spring. I replaced the spring and diaphragm in the parking lot by just unscrewing the machine screws that held on the top of the pump,.Never took the pump off the car. I don’t think I ever saw anyone buy a new carb, generator, or starter, in those days. Even if your carb was so worn that the throttle plate shaft was leaking air you just drilled it for brass bushings. We did not have a throw away society then, everything was fixable. We had a company in Buffalo that did nothing but fix small appliances. small appliances were relatively more expensive then but were US made and performed beautify. You cannot buy a toaster today that will make toast as well as the old Sunbeam toaster of the 30s and 40s. Perfectly ,evenly done every time, just to the degree of darkness you set.


Kind of car related, there used to be a guy dragging a trailer, don’t recall the vehicle, maybe a woodie that drove through the neighborhood like an ice cream truck, every saturday he would drive by ringing his bell offering knife sharpening service. I remember my mother saying more people et cut by dull knives than sharp kinves, an every now and then sh would gather a few to meet him and get the knives sharpened. Old time fun.


I too remember having a generator rebuilt - while the car was in the shop. It took a few days, so I didn’t have transportation while that happened. Perhaps that is why they don’t do that any more.

Further, it used to be that materials were expensive and labor was cheap, so repairing stuff made sense. Today, the opposite is true and it just doesn’t make sense to do a costly repair - one that ties up the vehicle (or whatever) for a length of time - compared replacing the part and throwing the old one away. It isn’t so much a throwaway society and much as it is a minimizing the cost and time.


When a Great Aunt died in the 1970s, there wasn’t much of value in her apartment, but I wanted to keep something as a remembrance of her. I spotted her Sunbeam electric skillet-- made in the '50s–and decided to take it home with me. This now-ancient appliance still works flawlessly!


It’s less than a mile from my driveway to a company called “Motor Electric”. I don’t know all that they do, but at least part of their business is rebuilding starters and alternators. It’s a same-day service, price roughly the same as buying a remanufactured replacement at a parts store. I like the fact that I KNOW that the item I get back fits my car (no parts number error resulting in a starter that doesn’t match the car, necessitating a return trip to the parts store). And I believe there’s a greater chance that the assembly line rebuilt starter or alternator, from who knows where, will have some problem and not work, so that I have to do my remove/replace job twice.

And of course I prefer doing business local when I can.


Yeah I would prefer a little more repairability. In about 1978 my Mr. Coffee went out. Over lunch I stopped down to a store in Minneapolis and picked up a new heat sensor for a couple dollars and it worked fine after that. Now with the Keurigs, even if you can figure out how to trouble shoot it, you’ll never get it apart without destroying it, and of course you can’t buy the parts-cheap as they are.

One clarification though. We don’t throw everything away. A lot of these parts go back to be rebuilt or re-manufactured in a more efficient shop. Same thing, just done on a production line than one at a time.


Back in 1967, my brother was moving into an apartment and my mother gave him an old tank type vacuum that had stopped working. My brother and I took the vacuum apart and determined it needed new motor brushes. The vacuum cleaner was an off brand called a Bee Vac made by the Bertram company. My brother looked in the Yellow Pages and one little shop advertised that they stocked parts for all makes of vacuum cleaners. I thought we should call the store to see if they had the parts but my brother refused. He said if they didn’t have the brushes, he was going to accuse them of false advertising. I went along because I didn’t want him to argue with the shop if they didn’t have the part for a 27 year old off brand vacuum cleaner. At any rate, when we got to the shop, my brother told the old woman at the counter that he needed the carbon motor brushes for a Bee Vac tank type vacuum. “Yes sir”, she replied. “What year was it made?”. “1940”, my brother responded. She opened up a parts drawer, picked out a pair of brushes, laid them on the counter and said, “That will become 75¢”. The brushes were the correct part. The vacuum cleaner lasted 5 more years until the field coil burned out.


Reverse, places that are hard to deal with, My boss and I have a running joke that resurfaces often, how hard do we have to beg to get you to sell us something. Remembering Greece, owners would not serve you if they did not like you, just blow you off more or less. I never had a problem, but others were like I had to wait an hour to get a sandwich, or I just left.


We have a similar independent automotive electric shop. I think I have mentioned it in a previous post. I’m not sure how long they have been in business but my Father said they rebuilt a starter for him in 1946!


Buffalo Starter used to rebuild a starter while I waited, usually 15-20 minutes for about the same price as a parts store rebuilt. I had a friend that laughed at me for paying as much to get mine rebuilt as he was able to get a lifetime guaranteed one from Pep Boys. They honored their lifetime guarantee cheerfully, 5 times in 2 1/2 years until he junked the car.