What’s With The Lemon Law?

Let’s play the What If Game:

You’ve just signed the paperwork on a brand new car.  All excited about dropping some of your hard-earned dough on a new daily driver, you go out fo a spin after taking delivery. You notice it hiccup slightly as you move through the rev range. You don’t let that kill your joy but decide to take it to the dealer the next morning. 

You drop it back off at the dealer service department and get a call from the service advisor that the issue has been fixed with new spark plugs. You pick your shiny new car up that night and as your driving it home the hiccup happens again.  Frustrated you pull a Vin Diesel’esque U-Turn and head back to the shop.  It’s closed so you leave your car in the lot and decide to call the Service Advisor in the morning. 

The service dept. agrees to take another look at the vehicle and shortly thereafter you get another call from the advisor saying it’s all fixed and it’s ready for pickup.  You pick it up and the same thing happens. That pesky hiccup is back. You call the service department irate at this point and start the cycle all over again for the third and fourth times.  

At this point, you might be starting to think you have yourself a Lemon.This might be true depending on your state.  It’s always best to call a specialist on the Lemon Laws in your state for advice.  These laws, like many, can be tricky to navigate.  But, as Lehto’s Law does below, it’s not impossible, especially with the right help.


 

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The Breadbox

It’s no secret that I like old Volvo’s.  I used to be ashamed of it much like my dad used to be ashamed he likes Barry Manilow.  And, just like my dad, I now embrace the weird squares with my dad-like awkwardness.

I like to tell myself hat I like Volvo’s for their tank-like reliability.  When’s the last time you saw a Volvo broken down on the highway? Nevermind that there aren’t that many sold here in Florida, that reasoning supports my delusion and that’s all that matters. It’s “Dad Logic”. I’m right, You’re wrong. Because I’m Dad, and I said so.

A couple weeks ago another cool Volvo appeared on the Facebook page.  As with other Volvo’s I couldn’t say no. It was white, boxy, and looked like a turbo.  It was the kind of Volvo I love.  It was used, abused and worked on in a driveway.  It was awesome.

So without further adieu here’s another great Volvo from Matt:


“When I got married in October 2000, my wife was driving a 1980 VW Rabbit Diesel.  By spring 2001, we were expecting, and the Rabbit had lost its brakes.  We decided that she needed something newer and safer to be carrying around the baby, and she decided she wanted a Volvo wagon – and old one, one that looked like a Volvo.  After looking at a couple of 240’s, she found an online listing for a 1989 740 GL wagon, in white, just like her Rabbit.  We went to a used Volvo dealer in Frederick, MD, about 40 miles from our home in Baltimore, to look at the car.  It had 168,000 miles on it, and you could see it was taken care of at one time, just not recently.  Other than the fact that the cruise control didn’t work, it seemed like a good car, so we bought it. 

 

We took delivery a couple days before Mothers Day, 2001.  My wife Eilean named it The Breadbox (big, white and square) and drove it almost exclusively, except on long trips, like our 2001 trip to Florida where a bolt on one of the trailing links in the rear suspension fell out and caused the driveshaft to hit the tunnel.  My father-in-law had to tow us back home from Richmond, VA behind his RV. By 2004 we were expecting our third child.  The Volvo wouldn’t hold 3 car seats across the back, so she reluctantly gave it up and we bought a minivan (aka the Blue Behemoth.)  We decided to keep the Volvo as a spare car since my ’92 Tercel was coming up on 300,000 miles and starting to have problems.  It was also right around the time our oldest started preschool, and it quickly became clear that unloading a preschooler out of the back of a 2-door Tercel in the carpool line wasn’t easy, so I started using the Volvo instead.  It took about a month before I loved the car too.  Except for one problem. The automatic transmission.

 I hate automatics, and the AW-71 in the 740 sucks any of the little power it has out.  Unfortunately, less than 20% of US 700 series cars had manuals, and most of them were Turbos, so good luck finding one.  By this time the 740 needed its rear main seal replaced, and I was already thinking about dropping the transmission (which I had never done before) when the torque converter went belly up.  I brought up the subject of converting the 740 to a manual, and after a conversation about “Do you really think you can do that?” I went hunting for a donor transmission.  I actually found 2 at the first junkyard I looked in, which I still can’t believe, and pulled everything I thought I needed to swap it out.  Well, after not getting all the parts I needed, several more trips to the junkyard, a mail order for a different flywheel, and 7 months, I had a 5-speed M47 equipped 740.  These transmissions, I later found out, are notoriously weak.  I’m on M47 #5 now, but having all the 700 series specific parts, I can use the much more common 240 5-speed and swap all the unique parts over.  Another upside is that I can drop a Volvo transmission in under an hour now. 

The next thing I dealt with was the suspension.  740s handle remarkably well for a car with exactly zero sporting intentions, they just wallow a bit.  My wife solved this by getting me IPD sport springs and 23 mm sway bars as a present.  God, I love her.  The springs and sways firmed up the ride, without killing it, and got rid of the sinking freighter-level body roll. 

The mileage was well into the 200,000’s by 2010 when I got a new job 38 miles from home, that’s when the mileage really started shooting up.  My daily drive is somewhere between 80 and 100 miles, so 300,000 came and went pretty quickly.  Shortly thereafter, another leaking main seal, combined with broken wire to the oil light, caused me to spin all but one of the main bearings.  I figured that since I needed a new engine, why not get a turbo as well?  Another junkyard yielded a 198,000 mile turbo motor from a ’94 960.  The plan was to get the new engine in and put the turbo on, since a few modifications need to be made, like relocating the battery and intake box, later. 

Well, that was 5 years ago, and I’m still running a turbo motor with no turbo and a bung stuck in the oil return in the block.  I also managed to score most of a new interior.  I was at another junkyard (big surprise) with my brother-in-law looking for parts for his 4Runner, when I saw an ’88 760 wagon with a perfect interior.  The car was one owner, garage kept, and was junked when the engine died.  I bought everything but the instrument panel and center console for $150.  Along the way, it also picked up a set of Draco wheels from a 740 Turbo, the rare center console cupholders, and a glass, power sunroof from the late 90’s S/V90. 

It’s caught on fire twice, blown up 2 clutches, had a short in the fuel pump wiring for 3 years that would cause it to randomly quit running, usually at the most inopportune time possible, multiple exhaust problems, more electrical problems than I can remember.  We tow a 12′ pop-up trailer with it, load it full of stuff, abuse it, neglect it, and it still keeps rolling, with some effort.  As it sits outside right now the mileage is 444,045, and there’s a big puddle underneath it from the leaking water pump seal.”

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“Absolute Class”

I’ve noticed 2 themes among our beater submissions. Jeeps and Hand-Me-Downs. Jeeps are cheap, occasionally reliable and perform many, some questionable, functions. Hand-Me-Downs, on the other hand, serve one purpose, to be cheap. Cheap isn’t always a bad thing, however.

A couple of days ago Ty posted up his Benz on the Facebook page and instantly I knew we had to feature it.  Old Diesel Benz’s, like old Volvos, are pretty much bullet-proof.  So, being gifted one by an old hippie or your dad might be the best thing for your high school self to get.  They last for millions of miles and if they break, are cheap and plentiful to get fixed most anywhere in the world.

Check out Ty’s Classy Benz below:


“My dad was looking for another vintage Benz having just sold his 1973 450SE and I happened to find what would become my 1978 240D on Craigslist in Richmond, Virginia.

We went down to look at it and, after about a month of dealing with titling issues, he ended up buying it. It was a 2-owner, original matching numbers car, factory 4speed, and had 285k on the clock.
My dad ended up driving it for a few years as an around town car, occasionally going to D.C. or Richmond for a day.

When my senior prom came around I knew I wanted to take that car, purely because it was the absolute definition of class in my eyes. That was my first experience with it. Never had I driven anything so slow but I loved it.

About a year later I was driving a $900 ’95 325i and when the rear end fell out of it, I needed a car to drive. Dad said, “Take the 240. DO NOT WRECK MY CAR.”
going from a 220hp tuned bimmer to a slower-than-hell Mercedes was quite a game changer but I loved it. Being an 18year old in a Benz, I thought I was cooler than sliced bread.

After about a year of not having a running car, the bimmer left and a 69 Bug came along, but the Benz stayed. still in my dad’s name I drove it to and from work every day and around town with friends. One night a friend and I even found ourselves in Virginia Beach at 2am after going for a cruise in the old Benz.

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Here’s where it gets good.

At this point I’ve been driving the 240D for about a year, I’ve put about 10k on it.
I’m driving home from school one day and I see an older dude driving a w116 450SEL, and me being and old Benz guy  I followed him to the gas station to talk about his car.
After a great conversation, this old hippy dude tells me, “You seem like you know a lot about these old Diesels. I’ve got an 80 300SD sitting in my driveway. fI you want it, you can have it. come get it”. about a month later of conflicting schedules i picked up the w116. you can imagine how excited I was to get a free car but I didn’t want to give up the 240D. I liked it too much. so, I made my dad a deal. I told him I would give him my turbodiesel for the 240.

Now the 240D was mine and I couldn’t be happier. About 6 months later I joined another band and put that old diesel to work. Touring all across the surrounding states playing shows. After awhile I left the band and went back to driving to and from work and around town, but I really missed road tripping that old thing after having made so many memories in that car.

While on vacation in the Outer Banks, my family was talking about having a reunion in Buffalo and I knew what I had to do.

The ultimate road trip.
4 states, 750 miles.
So, I started planning.

The time came for the trip. My friend and I loaded up the Benz at 1am and hit the road. Going through WV, PA and NY we saw some amazing sights and I got my favorite picture of the car at 7am in Harmony, PA. It took 10 hours to get there, and 13 to get back. It was hands down the best trip I’ve ever been on. It wouldn’t have been the same without that old Benz.”

“When Will I Learn?”

Trucks, especially old trucks are made differently. They’re stout and built to take a beating.  Up until the ’90s there wasn’t such a thing as a luxury truck.  King Ranch and Denali editions weren’t a thing. Trucks were basic, honest, machines made for getting the job done.

Old Ford F100s are iconic work trucks. It doesn’t matter which side of the argument youre on, F100s are beasts, along with other old trucks, and don’t give in to breakdowns too easily.

Check out Steve’s old Fords for a prime example of built Ford Tough:


 

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I suppose my story really begins with Bob Chandler, Jim Kramer, and Bigfoot. I can remember watching VHS tapes that my grandparents would get by mail of monster trucks running other cars over with reckless abandon back in the days when in order to participate in the sport, you just needed a truck, a big block V8, some big tires, a mullet and a set of brass testicles that were hard-pressed to fit into the high-waisted jeans of the early ’90s. I was hooked.

 
Throughout my early life, my parents insisted that cars were appliances and drove mostly Toyotas that were, above all else, disposable. When one broke, they would get just enough of it fixed to hum the next few thousand miles in relative comfort and reliability. My grandfather stoked the fire that would culminate in my beater, but I’m getting ahead of myself. He tried and failed to sell his truck, and thus it was handed down to me: a white 1988 Ford Bronco II with a 2.9 liter V6 and a 5 speed made by Mitsubishi. (Not Mazda. They made the 4 speeds.) That truck is for another e-mail story.
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I eventually gave that truck away with nearly 300k miles on the clock to my brother in law, who needed a winter beater, and the Bronco still ran nearly perfectly.
 
I mourned for that truck. It had given me my first taste of freedom, my first wrenching experiences, some of my first…intimate and special memories with young ladies who were kind enough to have them with me.
 
While in my sackcloth and covered in my ashes, I stumbled upon it: a 1965 F100 with a big block. My beloved and long-suffering bride gave me the green light, and we went to pick it up for $600, and the ad promised that it ran! It was no Bigfoot, but it shared some of the same DNA, which was good enough for me.
 
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We lived and worked at a little conference center in Idyllwild, CA, and the truck was in East LA county. Off of Euclid, I think. So we drove the hundred or so miles to the house, and the truck was BAD. loose steering, terrifying brakes and a transmission that was present, but maybe not great. I was thoroughly in love. Money exchanged hands and we had just enough time to hit the DMV before–steam.
 
Steam?
 
Lots of steam. Goddamn it.
 
So I decide that since I still have some cash in my pocket, I would hoof it to the nearest parts house and see if they had a radiator in stock. And some tools, maybe. No luck. no radiator shop was open, and no parts house had a radiator. I sent my wife home in the other car while I waited for a tow truck. 100-mile tows with AAA are an awesome idea, by the way. An AWESOME idea.
 
So the tow truck got there and he loaded the truck up and the drive home was uneventful, until we went to unload it. The conference center has a baseball field, or did then, and it was really the only level place on the whole property, so the tow guy drives onto it, hangs a left toward a retaining wall, and begins to unload it toward the edge of the field, and the lower retaining wall, which is about a six foot drop.
 
Remember the scary brakes? Well, the truck had not moved in more years than was disclosed, and the wheel cylinders had apparently rotted. As soon as the truck was on the ground, rolling, the tow guy realized that the brakes were nonexistent.
 
I had not, to that point, ever heard the pall on a parking gear make that grunt-scream noise that they do when you try to slam an automatic transmission into park while at speed in reverse. The Effey stopped just short of the drop, and the driver got out, looked at me, and simply said, “That thing ain’t got NO brakes.” and then had me sign the paperwork and off he went.
 
The next chance I got, I tore into the truck. I found an improperly made aftermarket aluminum radiator, which I gleefully jammed into the truck in a super sketchy manner just to get it moving, which I did, up to the shop at the center, where I fixed a minor rust hole that bothered me, got it fired up, and reversed downhill.
 
Oh yeah, brakes.
 
BAM! I rolled into a stump, put it in drive, and found a level spot to coast to a stop again. Luckily, my ancestor of the god Bigfoot had been equipped with the thickest, heaviest rear bumper I have ever seen and it was fine.
 
At that point, life happened and the conference center and we (being my wife and me) underwent a…how did Gweneth put it? A conscientious uncoupling? We did that and decided to head back to our hometown, Modesto, CA. I rebuilt the brakes, bled everything, and test drove the still-unproven mystery FE-powered hunk of shit a few miles. It worked! It had an exhaust leak that made it sound like a broken tractor, I had vice grips to open the doors from the inside and I still couldn’t tell if I could trust the temperature gauge, but we loaded it to the gills with possessions and pointed downhill.
 
It made it 28 glorious, V8 powered miles before I realized that it was starting from a stop awfully slowly. And over-revving when I tried to get to highway speeds. And not going into Park. The Cruise-O-Matic was stuck in second gear.
 
I found a shop that generously let me park the truck while we made our way back to Modesto and made what turned out to be the dumbest plan I have ever come up with.
 
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“Wanna go on a road trip?”
 
The six words that no man in their mid-20s can resist. It was two weeks before we got everything together. It was me, one of my best friends, a rented flatbed trailer, and a 1990 Chevy 1500 single cab, short bed. The wheelbase was important for reasons that will become obvious shortly.
 
See, rental trailers are designed to work with as many applications and in as many situations as possible. It’s why they have surge brakes equipped, which are basically manual drum brakes with the brake pedal integrated into the tongue of the trailer. As stress is applied by the weight of the trailer to the tow vehicle, it compresses the push rod much like your foot would on a brake pedal and engages the brakes at a pressure consistent with the force at which it is compressing. Slick, right?
 
Well, a funny thing happens when there is a leak in that system: You now have about 5 inches of play in and out on the tongue of the trailer, and about an inch side-to-side, which is…well, it’s not great.
 
We had decided to cannonball straight to Banning, CA, made it to the shop with the F100 just in time to thank the owner and load the truck onto the trailer and get to our hotel for the night. Neither of us could sleep, so we decided a couple of hours later to just go for it.
 
The I-10 at 4 AM is strangely serene. The I-10 also has a long, gentle downgrade that you wouldn’t notice at all if you didn’t have a trailer with no brakes, a 4000 pound truck on it, and six inches of play in the tongue.
 
We were doing 55 when the trailer rear-ended us the first time.
 
“Dude, I don’t think the brakes are working on that trailer.”
 
Josh slowed to 40.
 
The trailer hit us again, hard, and the back end of the tow vehicle wobbled, so he applied just a little bit of throttle to straighten out. He backed out of it at 50, and the trailer caught up again.
 
BAM.
 
The Chevy held straight.
 
BAM.
 
“Not sure if I can hold another one.”
 
BAM
 
I looked over at him and said “Nope,” just in time for 8 tires to break traction seemingly all at once as the trailer pit-maneuvered the Chevy, sending it and the trailer spinning toward the guard rail. I have no idea how we were between clusters of traffic, but we were, and we were sitting, stalled out, across 3 lanes. Josh slammed the truck into park, started the truck, and gunned it into the dirt.

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“I am NOT towing that thing another mile.”
 
So we pushed the Ford off the trailer and spent the next hour with jumper cables trying to start it. Pro-tip: If you’re going to try to start a vehicle in gear, don’t have a manual choke. In 40 degree weather. With the back wheels on the ground.
 
The big block finally sputtered to life and I just gassed the bastard down the highway when I found another cool feature! Intermittent headlights! They blinked off and on at random intervals just long enough for me to find my way off the freeway and onto a side street, where I stopped, let the truck die and called Josh to tell him where I was.
 
We were 100 miles from Barstow. Remember those AAA tows?
 
I found another place to dump the truck for another week while we sorted insurance with the rental company, who paid out more than the Chevy was worth without so much as a question when we showed them the empty master cylinder, and I went back with another tow vehicle and another rented trailer to get the truck, which this time, came quietly.
 
I replaced the transmission, added some speed parts and drove it daily for 3 years, back and forth from Fresno, Turlock, and still drove it when I got hired on at Gallo Winery.
 
Then came the end of the ’65.
 
I had been out and about running errands and such when my wife called and told me she was headed out to work soon and would like to see me for a few minutes before she did.
 
I drove home, parked on the curb, and chatted with her.
 
kaBOOM
 
“Did someone just hit your truck?”
 
It sounded like a forklift backing into a train of trailers at the winery, so the sound didn’t even make me flinch. I pulled one of the blinds down to glance at where I had parked, and the truck was gone.
 
I ran to the door, as though speed would make any difference at that point, and saw it: my truck against the big tree in my front yard with a Toyota buried in the back, still running.
 
I went out and asked the old lady driving “Are you okay?”
 
“…I saw a bird…”
 
“Do you know what just happened?”
 
“It swooped down from a roof over there, and…oh, did I hit your truck?”
 
I saw a pill bottle rolling around on the floorboard. “Yep.”
 
“Oh, dear, I’ll just drive home and get my insurance. I live just around the corner.”
 
“Nope. You’re staying here.” I reached in, shut the Toyota off, and called 911 to let them know to send an ambulance and police.
 
The truck looked like an accordion. I ended up saving the engine, which turned out to be a 390, the radiator and the horn button. the rest went to the local pick-a-part.
 
That engine currently resides in my new beater–a 1972 F100! This time with a short bed and way more rust!
 
God, when will I learn?

Do Your Homework

 If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years, it’s “do your homework.” Not only does it get you through school, but it also helps when working on old beaters in crusty junkyards.  It’s also how I learned the hard way that a Nissan 300zx MAF doesn’t work on a 280zx (I was young and stupid back then).

“Do your homework” was also the main theme in mechanic’s school too.  I remember sitting in on my first day of training at BMW, being handed 3 very filled 3″ binders full of curriculum and was told that we had to know that stuff in 9 weeks.  After laughing, the instructor reassured us that we wouldn’t know everything in those binders and led us into a makeshift computer lab.

“If you only learn one thing these 9 weeks, learn how find the information,” came out of his mouth.  I was floored.  Weren’t Bimmer techs supposed to know everything. Wasn’t I supposed to come out of this bavarian boot camp with some type of encyclopedic knowledge of the 3-Series? Wrong.

You were supposed to know how to find the information fast.  You were supposed to know how to do your homework. So, before you try swapping a z31 Nissan MAF onto a S130 Datsun, or a 2.2l head onto a 2.5 head, do your homework.

In the meantime, Here’s Joe’s Dodge Murder Missile:


So first up is my truck, 1995 Dodge Dakota, 2.5l I4, AX15 5-speed manual, 2wd short bed short cab sport, whose long list of options include 6 spoke alloy wheels….and that’s pretty much it haha

It wasn’t always a ragged, old bastard of a truck though, my best friend got it from his dad in high school with only 60k on the clock and was incredibly clean back then, of course, a couple of teenage rednecks from Hazel Park fixed that pretty quick.

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Plenty of air time, amateur rally, and grossly overloading the poor thing we managed to blow a head gasket, got halfway done with a 318 swap, said screw that with these bush-era gas prices, and rebuilt the 4-banger.

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Oh yeah, and we accidentally put a 2.2 head on a 2.5, the super high compression motor ran great til it smashed all the valves out of itself.  Remember kids, just because the hood on the car in the junkyard you’re pulling a cylinder head off of says it has the same motor as your truck, doesn’t mean that’s the hood that came on that car from the factory.

It did manage to pull a camper trailer with only 3 cylinders, though, so kudos little guy

Aside from us abusing the poor thing (and accidentally installing the wrong parts) it’s been a pretty solid ride mechanically, it’s got just shy of 200k on it now, and the body is pretty rusty but it’s a Michigan daily so, that happens.

3 cylinder heads, 1 short block, a rear end, and a fuel pump are all the major work I’ve helped with or done myself over the 13 years I’ve been around the truck, I’ve had it for, I want to say 6 years now and the only things I’ve done since then have been brakes, wheel bearings, a top end rebuild and a new fuel pump and starter.

I did drive it around for about a month with no bed after doing the fuel pump, went like hell with that weight reduction, little bouncy though.
 

Sadly, the old girl has been down with electrical issues since last June, no idea what’s wrong but Chrysler wasn’t exactly renowned for their high-quality electronics in the 90’s so who knows what manner of awful I’m in for getting it back on the road.

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