They shoot horses, don't they?
|This classic image says it all.|
I remember this as a movie title about a dance marathon during the 1930's. I never really got the connection between the title and the movie's story. It just sounded like a reminder of the sadness of reality. I'm only dealing with cars as a subject.
A lot of, if not most, regular people end their relationships with their cars by simply trading them in on another newer model. They have driven the car for years, and a number of miles sometimes determined by a lease agreement. Whether the car was purchased outright or with monthly payments, it eventually reaches a point where it has accumulated a certain number of miles. This makes the advantage of holding onto it seem more than offset by the risk of the need for future repairs. Besides, these people don't want to have to think about a car, on any other level than on making the payments. This is a strategy to avoid having to invest in serious costly repairs. We're talking about cars that are three to seven years old, well within their original service life.
Others will trade or sell their existing older car because it appears that it will need a sizable investment in repair in the near future. Usually they have just paid a sizable amount for a major repair and they decide to get out while the goings still good! It's hard to sell a non running car and get anything out of it, so they will decide to spend just enough to get back into running shape, just so they can sell or trade it in! These cars are generally older, anywhere from seven to ten years old, or more. This can be a good strategy but the costs of the repair must be contrasted against the decrease of the total value of the car. Transmission repairs usually fall within this thinking. However if the transmission has failed, other costly repairs such as brakes, suspension and cooling system repairs are likely to be needed soon. Maybe the smart thing is to cut and run.
Even the guys that mess around with really old cars will move on. They will find something more interesting, or they can now afford something a bit ritzier, or they too have decided that they have reached their financial limits with a particular vehicle. So it's sent on down the road.
People move on for a lot of good, logical, practical reasons.
Sometimes cars are gone due to factors beyond the owner's control. That would be if the car was severely damaged in a collision or natural disaster. Or stolen and never recovered
Hobby and collector cars are usually a different matter. Though usually older, they were sought out and held onto by the owner for primarily emotional reasons. Even so, practical considerations can overrule an owner's emotional connection with his car. Sometimes they also reach their financial limits for repair. Many never want to get rid of the car, so they will hold onto it, even if it will probably never be repaired or restored. Usually these guys will have more than one car, often several, and the old non operating car will be pushed to the side and eventually be forgotten. These will be the real barn finds.
There will often come a time in the relationship between a car and it's enthusiast owner that will be a time of reckoning. Holding onto a favored vehicle may become almost impossible due to changing life conditions. Lack of finances, lack of space, physical limitations to the owner, poor health, and the greater demand of other responsibilities. These are familiar situations.
So why the lengthy preamble?
As I've written, I feel that this is a turning point in my Mustangs' ownership. I've have owned the car for 13 years. I bought it with 150,000 miles on the clock. It is now a twenty six year old car with over 216,000 miles on the odometer. Up to now, I've been very consistent with keeping up on maintenance and repairs, and as a result the car has rewarded me with a lot of fun, trouble free miles. But you can never escape the reality that the car has a lot of miles on it. While the 4.6 Ford V8 is legendary for high mileages, it does have to wear out someday, right?
I thought that day was far off.
Besides tearing the engine down for inspection how can you determine the condition of a motor? There are a couple of tried and true methods. But first, think about the major symptoms; blue smoke from the tail pipe indicates that oil is being burned after making it's way past the worn rings and cylinder. Rough idle with evidence of a miss in one or more cylinders. This is usually evidence of worn valve seats which leak compression pressure. Another symptom that can often be overlooked because it is a silent killer: low oil pressure.
As the main, rod end, and camshaft bearings wear, a greater quantity of oil escapes and lowers the overall oil pressure in the engine. This leads to greater metal to metal contact within these contact points and frequently leads to seizure and fracturing, exploding, metal. Catastrophic failure is the result. You won't miss that!
Most of these symptoms don't apply in my case.
First of all, the car doesn't trail a cloud of smoke. Secondly, the motor idled fairly smooth until the CEL lit, and it still wasn't that bad even withe misfiring on cylinder #4. The oil pressure hasn't seemed especially low at least as indicated by the gauge. Generally the cylinders and valves will go out before the oil pressure becomes a real problem.
My symptom was the misfire and CEL. At first all I did was a compression check on cylinder #4 and the results were surprising, because they were pretty high at 180 psi. There obviously wasn't a bad valve, leaky ring, or blown head gasket issue, so it was probably ignition. After checking, I found some real problems with the plug wires.
I ordered a new set from Winchester Auto and had to wait a day for the order to come in and another couple of days to install them.
|It's good to keep them in order.|
I decided to check all the plugs and see what they looked like. They looked about the same clean, dry, and almost white
I went to Harbor Freight and bought a new compression gauge and measured all cylinders.
|I brought the first tester back because it didn't have the right size fitting.|
Again I was surprised by how high the compression was in light of the high mileage. I made a record of the results that I will keep in the car's maintenance file. This will be some valuable information going forward. With modern cars, spark plugs are only removed at infrequent intervals, the plugs in my '94 Cadillac had a recommended replacement at 90,000 miles. I wouldn't think of doing a compression check at less than 100,000 miles, anyway, unless it was being done to diagnose a problem.
|First, I pulled all the wires and plugs.|
When the wires arrived I have to admit that I was kind of hesitant to install them. What if they didn't make any improvement? What next?
Then it would be time to check the fuel injectors.
I'd been running different scenarios of failure in my mind. Would drastic action need to be taken? Maybe replacing the engine with a remanufactured unit? That would lead to a whole list of other related replacements.
As in any repair scenario the moment of truth arrives, finish the job and just see what happens. So I installed them. They were not the Motorcraft units but made by Belden/Eichlin with a lifetime guarantee. They also claimed higher performance from the delivery of higher voltage. That was a measure of confidence. I carefully installed each wire and worked out the best routing. I like the plug wires to be as neat as possible and the wires seemed to be a bit thicker and a smidge longer than the OEMs.
Before I installed them I measured each wire and recorded the resistance. This will give me values that I can use in the future to check them. That will go with the compression test results in my service file.
I fired up the motor and backed it out of the garage. It fired instantly and laid out a bit of smoke from the fuel that had been injected during the compression test. I'd also added a bit of oil to the #1 cylinder for the second compression reading, so a bit of blue smoke was part of the mix. But the engine settled into a smooth idle and there wasn't any CEL lit anymore! I didn't hear that misfire either. I let it idle and warm up.
After I was satisfied I reinstalled the tower brace to take it out for a test drive.
Man, did it feel much stronger, especially as it wound up to higher revs! It also felt much crisper off the line, and throttle response was satisfying. It really reminded me of my NorthStar Seville, which I drove quite aggressively when I first got it.
My driving style has really mellowed out over the years, I don't speed around and dart through traffic. I drive very steadily anticipating traffic conditions. I do try to achieve the best fuel economy. When I rented a new 5.0 GT I just drove the same and I got 28 mpg. on the trip home from Southern Ca.
Every once in awhile I'd accelerate hard in my old Mustang. I'd noticed lately that it hesitated and was a bit flat as it reached higher revs. Honestly, I'd just attributed that to age and a general lack of use.
Needless to say I was extremely pleased with the results. I learned a few things about diagnostics, and I'm going to keep a few of the old wires as an alternative, if I need to switch one out to check the wire function in the future.
Now the question is: What should I do with this car?
I dodged a bullet and the need for an extensive as well as expensive repair. So everything is fine... for now. I took the car down to get a smog check, which it passed easily, just in case I decide to sell it. Maybe it's time to shake things up a bit.