Faraway Farm: What you do best


I think by now it has been pretty well established that I am a fanatic about all things motorized. With a good sized collection of motorcycles, cars, trucks, and boats, I have become a consumer of parts. At any given time, I might be looking for a primer solenoid for an Evinrude outboard, a heater core for a Jeep Cherokee, or an electric window motor for a Volvo. Some of this stuff I can install myself, but, for the most part, my real strength is sourcing parts. Occasionally I can diagnose a problem, order a part, and install it. However, I recognize the fact that I am no mechanic, I'm just a regular guy who likes the vehicles but doesn't have the knowledge to do 85 percent of the repairs. I'm not afraid to try, but I can also figure out when I'm over my head, which is OK. You need to do what you do best. I find parts.

The thing I've learned about having a few older vehicles is that you can't always go to the local parts store to get what you need. I'm all for shopping locally, but when it comes to finding a part for a thirty-year-old boat motor, you need to get creative. You need to be open minded and consider all and any sources. Local shops, online searches, personal contacts, one way or another I must find that part. I've learned that it takes patience and persistence, along with resourcefulness and a good memory. One of the things I've found is that if you are going to run a bunch of older iron, you'd better choose wisely. It is a lot easier to find a starter for a 1979 Rolls Royce than a 1955 Rolls Royce. Why? Age, production numbers, and reliability. If you choose a vehicle that has a reputation for reliability that was made in large numbers, the job of sourcing your parts gets a lot easier. They made just under three million Jeep Cherokee XJs, and they have a reputation for holding up very well. Conversely, not all that many Yugos were sold in this country, and they were amazingly unreliable. Stay away.

Having said all that, there is still nothing better than a knowledgeable parts person, and you find them at your local parts store or dealership. When I had a Harley, the best motorcycle parts guy I had run across worked at the shop in Swanzey, N.H. What made him so good was his ability to be creative. If you wanted to put together accessories in a unique way, this guy knew how to make it happen. When I rode a BMW, I knew a guy who could source all kinds of parts for it with a cross-reference chart. A lot of VW parts would fit at a far lower cost than the BMW sourced stuff. When it comes to parts, knowledge is power.

One thing that I've found while sourcing parts on eBay is to pay special attention to the parts supplier's rating. If the supplier has earned high marks for satisfied customers, you can buy with confidence. Used parts? If they are electrical pieces, it is very important to make sure they were tested before being shipped. There's nothing worse than paying for something you can never use because it showed up at your door in a non-functioning state. Most of this I've learned the hard way. Once you've climbed that steep learning curve you don't want to squander the education you paid for, and that is true of everything.

There are many times that I wished my areas of strength were in some other specialty, like being able to do more complex electrical work. Keeping older cars on the road and older boats in the water require teamwork. Over the years, I've learned that there are a lot of skilled mechanics out there who have specific specialties. One guy I know does excellent exhaust work, frame repair, and tractor work. Another guy is an electrical wizard, and then there are guys who are great at doing engine work, swaps, custom work, you name it. After a while, I started spreading the work around a little while trying to do more myself. I don't always have the time, so I tend to stick to my specialties and take the vehicles to the folks who have theirs, and it seems to work well. Keeping the fleet running would all be easier if I had fewer motorized conveyances, and I am slowly working on that. But until that day comes, it's all about everyone being allowed to do what they do best.

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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