Chad’s Blog: Parts Problems

Last September I attempted a month-long road trip in my ’67 Impala sport sedan. I was derailed twice, less than 30 miles outside of town each time, by sticking rear brakes. How bad was the problem? I blew up a tire the first time, came home on the hook, and rebuilt my brakes — all new shoes, drums, and springs. The second time? They stuck again and I split a rear drum in two from the heat. That’s two tow truck rides home in less than a week. The editorial team still brings it up when I get a little high-and-mighty around the office.

After smashed grand plans and those two tow truck rides home, I got angry. I jacked up the back end, completely ripped apart the rear brakes and left the car on jackstands. The last time I touched it was in November. Since then, I’ve simply been avoiding the whole project and the sting from that bad experience.

That is, until this past weekend. The weather is getting nicer every day now (in between Portland rainstorms), and my longing for a windows-down cruise through the hills returned. So on Saturday, I headed out to the garage to reassess my car’s situation. Back in November I did order some new brake parts, including the rear hose that joins the hard line on the frame to the hard lines on the axle — a part I suspect was the issue all along.

I installed a new stainless hard line running from the proportioning valve under the hood to the rear of the car. I then installed the new rear hose, or rather, I attempted to. After 20 minutes of back-and-forth, I couldn’t get the rear retaining clip seated. Some filing, grinding and prying later, it still didn’t fit. I’m a stubborn guy, but this hose ended up getting the best of me.

Comparing the old with the new side-by-side, it was easy to see why the new part wouldn’t fit. A larger washer on the aftermarket hose shortened the length in which the hose fit through the crossmember, and the groove for the retaining clip wasn’t even visible on the other side. I could just hear my mentor back at the Ford dealership, Donnie, say, “Did you make sure they were the same before you started?”

No, Donnie. I didn’t.

I fell for the same trap that catches all of us at one time or another: Aftermarket parts aren’t always the same as original equipment. Yes, the original number cross references to that ACME piece, but even the manufacturing processes are different now than they were back in 1967. The parts could be better, could be worse, but none of that matters if it doesn’t fit.

Thankfully, my dilemma wasn’t that big of a deal. I solved it with phone call to local classic GM parts company Dan’s Classic Auto Parts. The correct part arrived this afternoon.

It’s a certain kind of funny that the only way to avoid mistakes is experience, and the only way to get experience is making mistakes. I know I won’t be trying to install anything on my cars so casually anymore. At least, I really hope it’s the last time I have to learn this lesson. And maybe my brakes will finally give me a break and work the way they’re supposed to when I get this car back on the road.

Do you have any projects or weekends or road trips halted by a “correct” part? Feel free to share them so I don’t feel like a solitary idiot.