The Usual Fiasco

Why is it always me?

Something as simple as swapping out a starter in an 83 Chevy product with a V-6 just turned into a shit show.

First off, I must have had to drag out fifteen different sockets/extensions and two Flex Head ratchets to do the job because shortly after crawling under the fucker I discovered every single bolt I encountered on that bastard was metric.

On an 83!

I couldn’t fucking believe it.

Had to pull down the cover under the torque converter to get a socket on the mounting bolts and very quickly also discovered that the drivers side exhaust pipe snakes in back behind the oil pan to meet up with the other side and is right in the way.

Of course the two metal cooler lines for the transmission are under the starter too.

After getting the two mounting bolts out the real fun started. Trying to get up on top of the starter to get the wires off.

That took a while and I had one hand snuck up in between that exhaust pipe and the starter and the other looped over the frame behind the upper control arm basically doing it by Braille.

I finally got the greasy damn thing out and set it on my little portable work bench I put the metal top on Friday.

I found out what it’s major malfunction was when I tried wiping off a half inch of greasy crud.

The two bolts that go through the electric motor were loose and the whole motor housing was flopping around.

I grabbed the box with the new one in it, opened it up and bigger than shit it wasn’t the same.

This one looked like it came out of some piece of industrial equipment or something.

It was way bigger around and a bit longer too where the bearing cap on the end plate stuck out for the armature shaft.

It was … fairly close and it being a Chevy I figure it should fit.

Oh Hell No.

I fought that heavy bastard for about five minutes but that extra length was a little too much and I couldn’t get it up past that exhaust pipe.

Back to the fucking parts house again.

The kid looked it up again and said that’s the one it called for. I told him it wouldn’t be the first time his fucking computer was wrong.

Here’s the deal with this damn Caballero.

Apparently they had three engines you could get in those that year.

Two V-6’s or a 307 V-8.

The V-6’s were both 3.8 liter engines but the similarities stop there. One was a 229 CID engine with the distributor mounted in the back, which is what I have, or a 331 CID engine with the distributor mounted in the front. Everything between them was different. The heads, the manifolds, even the valve covers and water pump. Starters too apparently.

Why in the hell they did that is beyond my ability to comprehend stone cold stupidity.

Of course they didn’t have the other one in stock and of course I am talking to a very young man. This is why I go to this particular parts house exclusively though, he didn’t just give me a blank look and tell me he could order one.

He cleaned the crud off the old one looking for any numbers but no luck. Not a single number or letter stamped into that damn thing anywhere. All the identifying info had been on a sticker that faded out years ago.

Then he gets on the computer again. Then he grabs the old one, goes in the back and a few minutes later we have a contender.

Same year, same model, 307 V-8 engine.

Since I bought the first one without a core, I even walked out with some money in my pocket.

Then I get home and try to put the thing in. What a clusterfuck.

It took me well over an hour to get that fucker back in there and finished up, laying under the thing in the driveway.

Every time I would set a socket down it would take off rolling down hill until I went and grabbed a tin drip tray and threw under it to catch them.

I will tell you one thing right now, you will get my Snap On swivel sockets when you pry them out of my cold, dead, busted up, arthritic fucking fingers and not a minute sooner.

The amount of money I paid for those thirty years ago would make your eyes water today but they are worth their weight in Gold to me.

I did get lucky in that even though the new starter came with a couple of shims and an Allen wrench, I wound up not having to dick with that at least.

It was that damn exhaust pipe that kept giving me all the grief.

I did take the time when I was finished finally and saw that it actually worked to call up there and thank the kid and to let him know it worked. I figure letting him know I appreciated the extra effort was the right thing to do.

So that took most of the afternoon yesterday. I didn’t bother taking any pictures, everyone that comes here must know what a joy putting starters in is by now.


So one down.

Now I get to do the Bronco….

Stay tuned for that one.

You gotta know it’s going to be just as much fun because it’s a four wheel drive and it’s a FORD.

25 thoughts on “The Usual Fiasco

  1. What you and I both paid thirty years ago for our Snap On, would break our jaw as it hit the floor !
    Much, much higher and not nearly as good…yet still the best in a world of shitty stuff


  2. I remember one of my dad’s friends paying me $300 back in the early 80’s (I was still in high school) to take a junk yard engine and swap it into a late 70’s (maybe early 80’s) sedan. Straight swap, no other work that bolting it up. Damn thing was a mish mash of standard and metric bolts. It seemed like all engine bolts were metric and all body bolts were standard, but some of the accessories like alternator were one or the other or sometimes both. From the factory. I actually had to ask for some of the money up front to go buy a set of craftsman sockets in metric since I only had standard at the time. That was a fun era. The rest of the money went to booze (I was underage, but no one cared back then).


    • The worst one I ever saw was on some Oldsmobile a neighbor brought home on some kind of trade deal.
      It was a nice friggin car, V-8 and fuel injected, mid 90’s I want to say. The thing was a hot rod. The starter went out on the thing and he came over and asked me to take a look at it.
      I went over that engine from top to bottom for twenty minutes and could not find the damn thing. He finally called a parts house to get a price on one and asked them if they knew where it was.
      Are you ready for this?
      The motherfucker was underneath the intake manifold!!
      You had to pull the entire top of the engine off to get to that sonofabitch.
      That same vehicle did not have a dipstick to check the oil in the transmission. I don’t know how in the hell you were supposed to put tranny fluid in it if it was low. Through the cooler lines was all could think of.
      Two reasons right there why automotive engineers should be hunted to extinction.


  3. I firmly believe as we get older, we pay for our earlier transgressions by vehicles with starters that are a bitch to remove and not having a place where one has a lift to work under instead of us having to crawl under to work. Our problem is we know how to work on them and can’t see our way to pay someone to fix them. No wonder we are a cranky lot..


  4. Snap On swivel sockets- none better ever made.

    They all went fucknuts in the 80’s. I try to stay prior. Honey just had to have an 82 mercedes. They were always nuts, I think.


  5. When I had my 1969 Triumph Spitfire, it had standard fasteners. My tiny
    Craftsman’s handheld toolbox would allow me to strip the car to the frame.
    The ignorant dork peanut farmer that infested the White House pandered
    to the enviro-nuts by applying crushing regulations on the oil and energy
    producers. Things went from bad to worse when he demanded that
    automakers produce more “energy-efficient” vehicles. That caused the
    automakers to stuff 10 pounds of shit in a smaller and smaller sack.

    Now it is a major project for a car owner to change a set of fucking spark
    plugs. I used to do routine maintenance on compressors at a Toyota
    dealership in Orange County CA. The compressors were located at the
    back of a long utility room. The walls were filled with custom pullers and
    tools that I could not even identify. All of them were out of reach for
    any independent repair shop. Add the computers and other electronic
    gizmos and the car owners got ass-raped with a baseball covered with
    a 40 grit sandpaper condom without the benefit of Vasoline.

    Since the Carter years, it never dawned on the Democrats that deregulating
    the oil industry could bring down the price of gasoline to less than a dollar
    a gallon. They instead gave is this 40+ year nightmare!


    • Back in the 90’s we had an independent garage where we took our cars when they were our of warranty, mostly Oldsmobiles (RIP). I asked the owner if he was going to be able to continue working on everything with the constantly changing special tool needs. He said that eventually, he’d end up working on only one manufacturer and maybe only one make. He sold out not much later and followed his love of running sound for large churches.


  6. That “GREAT” GM feeling……
    As much as I bitch about my fleet, I still would rather work on my Ford’s than any GM product made since ’79. Back when I worked in a garage, I worked on a GM, think it was a Cutlass, that depending on the engine had the starter on the left side or right. Most of the parts books wouldn’t make the distinction between which 350 engine was listed either. So we had to have the parts shop send us both, and send the wrong one back. The mid 80’s saw so many GM mongrel combinations. Chevy engines in Oldsmobiles, Pontiac in Olds, BOP transmissions in Chevys. Real pain in the ass.
    Don’t get me started about 80’s Mopars!
    Then, like TSquared noted, the transition to metric was a pain as well. Ford engines didn’t full go metric until modular engines replaced the traditional Windsor V8’s and the 460.

    Whitehall, NY


  7. Dad bought a 78 Olds Salon after mom sank the old LTD in a playa lake. We had to swap the trans out in mid-winter. Half metric, half SAE bolts. Dad bought a little cheapo socket set in a green tin box. Had a plastic insert to hold everything. I remember what a fiasco that was. But it got me over working on stuff. I realized then it was look, think, act for the most part. The best use I found for those little metric sockets were hammering on rounded over bolts. One use, but they usually could do that without failing. Dad taught me to value of good tools, by never having any.


  8. Uh, lessee.. heard this from my BIL who owned a garage; early ’70s GM, Buick Skyhawk I think. One of the back plugs could be changed only by either a) pulling the engine or b) cutting a hole in the firewall. Not great.
    Then I got a ’75 Volvo 244 with the California B20 engine. There were parts marked for the ’74 and some for the ’76. Cheapie oil change places would show me a dirty round air filter for the wrong year that they said came out of my car. Mine was square. When the car ran, it was damn near bulletproof, but parts and service became a nightmare. Got rid of it after 18 years and went back to Fords.


  9. Phil, next time you go to the parts house grab one of those magnetic bolt/screw/nut/socket trays. Basically a dog dish with a honkin’ magnet on the bottom. I keep mine under the hood of the truck to save bolts when I can’t figure out where they go.


  10. After being at a GM dealer during the 80’s and into the nineties I have three words: Welcome to Hell.

    The difference in the V-6 engines had a bit to do with a combination of ‘Corporate Engine Introduction’ and union production agreements (the later reason was never officially given publicly.) So much of the mess we deal with in the course of repairs has to do with sales agreements it is staggering. So much so that years ago, I was at a new model introduction for a not-named agricultural tractor – we were proudly told “designed from the ground up with a clean sheet of paper and no preconceived ideas.” I immediately called bullshit and pointed out that half of the machine was metric and half is standard, why not one or the other? “Corporate card comitments, next.”

    Fuck around.


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