Stalls – June ’89

Stalls – June ’89

by | Jun 26, 1989

METER WARS: The Sequel

Readers who consume large quanti­ ties of fish may recall some comments about Grand Street, the locus in quo of New York City’s Meter Wars. I am compelled to report that with the war over, it is Guerillas 10, Meters 0. Nary a meter has been left standing. Larry, my brother and correspondent, reports that he sometimes places one of his spare meters on the sidewalk (as a form of requiem, I suppose), but otherwise Grand Street has been bereft of meters for over a year.

The anarchists (principally of Chi­nese descent) who removed the meters have, however, rewritten other rules. It is a well-known phenomenon that guerilla armies cannot simply be turned on and off. After the Vietnamese kicked us out of Indochina, as they had the French before us, they did not go home and farm rice, for example;  they in­ vaded Cambodia. In New  York City, having removed the meters, the gueril­ las adversely possessed the truck (load­ ing) zones. Itreally just comes down to applying the First Law of Thermody­ namics, which predicts entropy to be a natural state. And New York is the country’s largest  Entropolis.

Larry presently has a Volkswagen diesel Rabbit, circa 1980, for which he paid mom some $500. It shakes like it has terminal Parkinson’s, has broken two timing belts in less than 40,000 miles, and its only option is an AM radio. In short, it is a perfect car to have in New York City, as neither it nor anything in it is worth stealing. And, it has truck plates.

(Larry’s previous city car was, I believe, a well-oxidized Impala of un­ certain vintage, hand painted with a Berkeley ’67 brush. Although  several of its cylinders still fired and its radio could not be stolen (it already had been), a decision was made to retire it. Since the value of the car was less than cab fare to ldlewild, the car was left there on the start of a Mexican holi­ day, and the plates were removed. Diesel Rabbits, as a species, deserve a sim­ilar fate.)

Larry  used  to  park  the  Rabbit  on Grand  Street in the truck  zones. You could  easily  spot it; it’s the  car  with “Oh, Go Wash Yourself!”preemptively carved in the mud. But it came to pass on several occasions that, upon return­ ing  to  the  street,  the  diesel  was  not where  Larry  left  it.  It was  in  some­ bod y’s loading  dock.  And  cars  don’t stay in loading docks long before they are on the back of a tow hook. It seems that  the warehouses  on the  street  are equipped  with  fork  lifts,  which  are more than a match for a Rabbit diesel, and that the fork lift drivers have cer­ tain  territorial  urges  vis  a  vis  truck zones.  Larry  now  hutches  his  car  in another county, in a zone where meters were never installed in the first place.

Mechanical Odds & Ends

The recent cold snap seems to have caused a  rash of interesting calls re­ garding mechanical problems.  Among the more noteworthy  gems:

Bavaria brakes: A Bavaria with newly overhauled calipers and a new master cylinder wouldn’t stop right. The pedal was too low and sank to the floor. Upon inquiry, I learned that silicone fluid was used, and I suggested that there was sometimes a problem getting this to work properly. The problem turned out to be that the dealer sold a

530i master cylinder to the hapless mechanic; installation of a Bavaria master  cylinder  immediately  solved the problem, albeit after a day of wasted labor. The lesson is that many of these parts look the same, so be sure you have the right one.

3.0 CS alternator . The 3.0CS had the red change light glowing (it varied with load), and the battery discharged over­ night. A t rial substitution of the regu­lator did no good, and a new battery had been installed. With all loads dis­connected, significant current  still drained  from  the  battery.  Probable cause was a bad diode in the alternator.

The headache was getting a replace­ment  alternator. The owner  ordered one from Portland, which duly arrived. It was the new, integral-regulator type. He sent it back, as he has an outboard regulator.  The  supplier  returned  it, saying to use it.

Unfortunately, it came without a fan or pulley. The old pulley would not go on the new alternator, because the woodruff keys are different sizes. Also, the owner’s alternator fan was dam­ aged and needed replacement. So up to the dealer he went, returning with a serviceable rebuilt unit with a Bosch label on it, complete with fan and pul­ ley. The Portland unit was again re­ turned to Portland.

The dealer unit works ok but looks like hell. The  Portland  unit  (Bosch rebuilt also) looked good, like a new one. The dealer unit was coated with cheap silver paint, everywhere (alumi­ num, iron, plastic, it didn’t matter – all received a dose of the same sagging paint), and I wonder if it was really rebuilt by Bosch, or if the Bosch label was taped over during painting. Does anybody know if Bosch is doing “dip and ship” overhauls?

Mercedes 300D vacuum failure. Perhaps this will be of interest to 524TD owners, who also have vacuum pumps. The caller described oil drip­ ping on his foot, could it be brake fluid? No. I suggested checking the air conditioning hoses and the oil pressure gauge sending line.

Well, it turns out the vacuum system was inhaling oil from somewhere, and it was spilling out all through the car. (The door locks, climate control, fuel shutoff, brake booster, transmission modulator, cruise control and lord knows what else are all vacuum con­trolled in a 300D. A belt-driven vacuum pump on the engine supplies the suck. Diesel engines, you know, have no throttle plate, and hence no vacuum.) The underside of the dash was completely coated with oil, and the owner had been reduced to turning off the engine with the emergency lever under the hood. I understand that the repair parts were inexpensive but the clean­ing bill was enormous.

If there’s a moral in all this, don’t call me when your car won’t work. Chances are two out of three I’ll guess the problem wrong. And beware the telephonic diagnosis; there is no sub­stitute for laying hands on the metal.


This article was originally published in the June 1989 edition of Zundfolge