Expectations and Costs
The new cars that we work on – Jaguar, Land Rover and MINI – live in a world of scrambled plastic water hoses and tiny wires with secretive computer components, accesses and programs.
The classics that we work on – MG’s, XKE’s, XK’s, Triumphs, Austin Healeys, Classic MINI’s, etc. – live in a world of natural rubber, leather or rope oil seals and carburetors and points… yes, carburetors…and points… ( “Oh, My !!” )
Neither groups can be repaired or “permanently fixed” for lots of reasons…. Including design flaws, materials failure, engineering vs repair ideas (ie – do the engineers actually see the need for maintenance access ?) and extended maintenance intervals mandated from the factories when the cars are new in order to save “while in warranty” factory maintenance costs.
For example, the 5.0 and 3.0 S/C Land Rover and Jaguar motors have 5 plastic-complex water pipes with many seals and gaskets that are buried under the boiling hot intake manifold and supercharger (if equipped). They get hot, they expand and contract with each drive cycle and eventually they become brittle and start seeping water where you cannot see. The leak(s) may not be discovered immediately and suddenly the car and the driver find themselves on the side of the road with a light show of catastrophic dashboard warnings.
Too, the modern Jaguar or Land Rover is a heap of small diameter wires tying all of the computer-dependent systems together… they have cold solder joints, broken and aged connectors, computer boards, and body water leaks that pour into the modules wreaking electrical mayhem. And then, there are the security permissions for keys and door locks that require special licenses, computers, access and a blessing from the local religious prelate to allow anyone to fix, provide service or grant access. Oh, and that pesky “check engine light” that appears to have a mind of its own…. That “must be driven through 22 drive cycles and no less than 60 miles in order to reset the monitors”…. And then, once reset, the check engine light illuminates two days thence with the same code… but nothing is wrong but the monitor… drive another 60 miles, click your heels three times, think of Kansas and hope the light stays out “this time”.
An old British Classic may very well not even have an oil seal on the crankshaft, but instead, they may have a “return screw” in place of a seal … it will leak and lubricate your garage floor for every year it is owned…. Gaskets are made of cork… (yes, even to this day) that, even when replaced with neoprene gaskets and seals, the floor continues to be marked by your oil producing mascot.
Oh, I forgot…. The old British Classics and the modern British cars were never designed for the Texas heat or traffic. … Not a day goes by without someone saying, “I cannot drive my car in traffic on Houston freeways in the middle of July – will you please fix it so I can go to Galveston on Saturday afternoons….”; or “I park my car in the sun all day in August, and it takes 45 minutes to cool down the inside of the car …. can you please fix it ??”; or “You have replaced two pipes (of 5 on the car) in my cooling system… why do I have to replace more pipes now ? (But, remember, I am on a budget)”.
Then, we have the unrealistic cost expectations of ownership…. “I have just bought my car at the auction…. what will you charge me to get it started ?”. “It cannot cost THAT much – I only paid $2500 for the car!!!” Thinking that they can buy a $75,000 (looking and styling like) car for $2500…. and once again, tap their heels three times….. well, you “get it”.
Then there is the customer who arrives with a “knowledge base” gained by surfing the internet – you know, the guy who knows everything that needs to be known about “how to fix the car” all gained from the internet. He delivers his advice in an imperious tone…. along with…. “If you do it the internet way as I am telling you, what will your warranty be ? And since you do not have to do diagnostics (because I showed you how to fix it), when will it be ready ?”…. along with “I pulled the codes at Walmart – what else do you need to know to fix the car and when will it be ready ?”
Bottom line is that these cars have never been “easy fixes”…. But in today’s “now economy” many owners presume that they should be just that…. “easy and predictable fixes – just like the internet says that they are”. Add aging on-board computers, cold solder joints and miles of wire and a dearth of relevant documentation, then “now” suddenly becomes “boat anchor”…. Even the Land Rover and Jaguar dealerships will not work on their very own cars that were produced prior to 8 to 10 years ago because, apparently, the dealers think that the older cars have become just too difficult to repair.
We are committed to finding the best solutions and work arounds to problems…. We have been in the hunt everyday for 51 years … we hire the best people we can find and we stay on top of “best practices”… we are “car guys”… we love British cars of all vintages… but… it is not getting easier and it actually does take time to sort out the Rube Goldberg products and projects.
Finding shops and techs with any relevant knowledge of British Classics or Modern British cars is becoming an increasingly difficult endeavor. When capable and talented people are found, they cost real money and the repair process suddenly and predictably becomes more expensive…. Just a fact … not an apology… it is the world we live in….
Roseanne Roseannadannaa was right…. “It is always something” and that “something” just seems to cost more everyday.