Letter Re: Automotive Preparedness

After reading the follow up to automotive preparedness, (I am Toyota fan) I figured I would share a few thoughts. Some background , I use to be a tractor mechanic for several years, repairing all kind of engines, transmissions, and other systems. I have also owned four  1980s-era Toyota trucks since I was in high school  (all 4x4s). I  progressed from no power steering or air conditioning as a kid, to wanting all the extras later in life. I also have many friends and family which have Toyotas that I helped work on. I also have a neighbor that is the parts manager for a large urban Toyota dealership.

  The main point I want to express is choosing the proper replacement parts, or more importantly when to pay a little more money for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts and their dependability . I like shopping at the local auto parts shop with people who know me, that  know automotive parts , and are not totally lost without a computer (books work too)! I don’t mind saving money going to a large chain store for some parts either. Finally I have no problem spending higher dealer prices for critical parts.

The two best examples I want to share, start with a 3,000 mile round trip I made on the west coast. Over my vacation, I had an alternator fail not once, but three times, and each replacement I installed was a rebuilt large chain store part bought in a different state. Nevermore! Once I raced home on batteries only trying to beat the sunset ( I didn’t want to kill the battery using headlights) , I decided to spend more money and get a new aftermarket high power alternator. I never had a problem after that. The next example involves my uncle`s truck. He had to replace the water pump, and while we were doing this we replaced the timing belt , which had 120,000 miles on it ( it should have been replaced at 80,000 miles). We used a  new timing belt from a large chain store. About 12,000 miles later his truck started running a little rough, he adjusted the ignition timing and it ran fine for 2 more days, then died. I was helping him figure out what went wrong, which took some time because we never considered the “new timing belt” failing. Once we got the timing belt out, we  were shocked to say the least. The belt with 12,000 miles on it had missing cogs , had a glazed over  look to it, and was cracked everywhere. I gave the belt to my neighbor   at the dealership to show his customers, and installed a factory belt with no problems for another 80,000 miles.

   I have other stories , but don’t want drag this out. My new rules for buying replacement parts are as follows,

     1. Rubber seals/gaskets on the motor itself, timing belts, drive shaft U joints/ bearings , and  water pumps = only purchase  factory/ OEM parts, when possible.

     2. Alternator or electrical equipment on the motor = try to buy  OEM or new aftermarket.

     3. Hoses, fan belts, filters, smog equipment  ,and  any components not directly connected to the engine = save money and go to local shop or large chain store.

      Starters can fall into either rule 2 or 3 since they are not being worked continuously the way alternators are, plus manual transmission vehicles can be push started most of the time if the starter fails ( I avoid automatic transmissions whenever possible.)

  Enjoying my 349,000 mile  Toyota, – Solar Guy