It Works . . . Even if it Needs Work

  • November 22, 2023

Old cars  – those made when cars were still mostly mechanical things – would sometimes just stop working. Just as modern, electronically encrusted cars sometimes also stop working. The difference is that when an old car stops working, you have the consolation of (usually) being able to get it working again.

Emphasis on you.

This is an attribute that may become important in the future, when other things stop working. Supply chains, for instance. You may not be able to get the electronic component you need to replace in order to get your modern car working. And there’s no working-around-that, when it comes to modern, electronic cars.

If – as an example – the computer that controls the electronic fuel injection system croaks, which it eventually (inevitably) will, the fuel injection won’t work – and the engine won’t run. Short of major work – as in, replacing the entire fuel delivery system with a mechanical system that does not need a computer to work – the car will never run again. This will be so if you cannot get any of the many electronic peripheral parts without which an modern EFI system won’t work.

It is unlikely in the extreme that you’d be able to get it running by the side of the road. You’d likely have to have it towed – to a shop. Which works – assuming the shop can get the parts needed to get the car to run again.

But when there necessary parts aren’t available, even the best shop can’t do much.

Keep in mind – because it is important to keep it in mind – that electronic car parts are (generally) not repairable. They are replaceable.

It’s a very important distinction.

An old, non-electronically controlled car that has a carburetor – the mechanical fuel delivery system supplanted by electronic fuel injection beginning in the mid-1980s – can be repaired.

Let that percolate a moment.

Whatever’s not working can usually be made to work. The carburetor might only need to be cleaned or adjusted and – once that’s done – it will work like new again. It might need some replacement parts to make it work, but these are not electronic and so it is possible – in a pinch – to make what’s on hand work. Gaskets, for example. These can be cut out of generic cork sheets – or made, using tube sealant. It’ll work is the point. Other parts can – literally – be used, too. As in whatever you have on hand or can scrounge. You do not have to have the exact-fit part because a part that’s close enough can often be made to work.

As in, by the side of the road.

And – here’s the really beautiful thing about mechanical things: You can usually get them to work enough to get you where you need to be. As an example – and there are many – if you have an older car that still has a cable connecting the accelerator pedal to the engine’s throttle arm (which controls the revving of the engine) and that cable snaps (as they sometimes would) you are not necessarily stuck. You will have to stop by the side of the road – because the engine will return to idle and no matter how much you push on the accelerator, the engine won’t respond – if the cable isn’t connected.

But the thing is, you can reconnect it. Maybe with a string. Maybe by just reconnecting it where it snapped. The point is, there are ways to gimp it back together by the side of the road, enabling you to get back on the road.

On the other hand, if the car is newer and has drive-by-wire throttle and the electronics that control the engine glitch or fritz, you aren’t getting back on the road – without getting another ride – because there is no way to gimp-fix electronic parts once they fail. They work – or they don’t. And when they don’t, they don’t.

And that’s it.

Here’s another for-instance: Almost any carburetor can be made to work on almost any carbureted engine. It might not work well. But the point is, it’ll probably work. And it’s not just carburetors, either. With the old stuff, parts can be swapped – including parts from other makes.

So long as you can make them fit.

These are but two examples meant to highlight some general truths that may become much more important truths if other things – such as the economy, itself – stop working. Or, for that  matter, the Internet.

If a time comes when you can no longer count on eBay to find a part your car needs to keep it running – and you can’t find one at your local auto parts store, either – you may still be able to make it work with whatever you’ve got on hand (or can get your hands on). The Cubans did this for half a century, keeping cars made in the ’40s and ’50s working well into the 2000s. They may not have looked new; they may not have worked quite like they did when they were new. But the take-home point is they were still working.

And that kept the Cubans going during the Castro years.

We may need to do the same in the coming years.

. . .

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The post It Works . . . Even if it Needs Work appeared first on EPautos – Libertarian Car Talk.

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