Column: Pieces, Parts and the Ones That Sometimes Break

Replacing broken parts kinda sucks. Replacing parts that you just replaced really sucks. And I’ve been there, too. I’m betting that most of us have.

When I rebuilt my Porsche’s engine however many years ago, I replaced all four engine mounts. Each one is basically a rubber donut placed inside a metal housing. It’s a fairly simple piece, but I figured that a little extra preventative maintenance wasn’t a bad idea.

And, I admit, I took the budget-friendly route. Instead of buying OE Porsche mounts at a hundred-plus bucks each, I went with “German” pieces at $25 apiece. Hey, four for one, I figured.

When my shift action got kinda wonky a little ways down the road, my mechanic delivered the great info: Those new engine mounts had already failed. In order to quickly, cheaply get me back on the road, he installed some used OE mounts that still had some life in them. Now that I think about it, I should replace those with new ones, too. (Hello, Porsche Classic?)

Another first-hand fubar involves the Porsche’s headlights, also a rather important part of the car. The 911 routes all of the electricity for the headlights through the high beam stalk. I know, maybe not Porsche’s greatest bit of engineering. There’s a simple rewire fix, but I didn’t do it until after my high beam switch burned out–and, yes, of course that happened at night.

The replacement high beam switch that was billed as “OE quality?” Yeah, it failed. I have been driving around that issue for a few years now. Just the right amount of fingertip pressure on the stalk keeps my Hellas from blinding oncoming traffic. During the day, of course, it’s a nonissue.

Stories of failed parts led to the founding of the British Motor Trade Association–and for the last several years, I have served as the group’s chairperson. The quality of parts in the British car market had gotten, let’s say, dodgy, and it was causing bad feelings on all sides of the counter: Customers were mad, suppliers were getting a bad rap, and shops were trapped in the middle.

The BMTA acts to improve the communication between all involved. So now if Shop A has a problem with Widget B, they know who to call at Company C. It seems to be helping.

While replacement parts aren’t always perfect, at least they’re available–and more bits keep entering the market. Porsche Classic, the factory’s official parts supplier for older models, keeps adding more SKUs to the catalog. Know which classic Porsche they’re excited about now? Those first Boxsters, a model closing in on its 25th birthday. (Note to self: Call Porsche Classic about getting a new high beam stalk, too.)

Boutique manufacturers have also been adding parts to the mix. I follow MK1 Engineering on Instagram. Whenever they showcase a new part, I think about my old Rabbit GTI–and how, back then, said parts were stocked at the local dealer.

Our readers have gotten into this game, too. I remember when Carlos Mendez first made an appearance at our $2000 Challenge a dozen years ago. Now his Condor Speed Shop offers all kinds of neat things for BMWs: bushings and windows to shift boots and reinforcement plates. They’re not necessarily OE parts, but he saw a niche and is working to fill it.

What kicked off this thought about greasy bits? A chat with my friend Maurice. His only car is a 1968 Dodge Dart convertible. He’s had it 30 years. It carries his BMX bikes, his kids and, when he’s working on the house, his lumber. He and the Dart live in a major metropolitan environment.

Back in the day, he was recalling, he could scavenge usable parts at the salvage yard. He could also find what he needed on the shelf at the local auto parts store.

Today, though, he no longer finds those old Mopars in the yards. And while new parts are available, they’re often not stocked locally. His solution? He manages his own stash. Yes, it’s a specialty car, he admits, but it’s also his sole car. If it needs a repair, it needs that repair today.

I sort of do something similar. In the garage I have a cabinet dedicated to replacement parts like oil filters and drain plug gaskets. For the Porsche, I also keep belts and gaskets on hand.

Of course, there’s another reality. While cleaning up the garage a few weeks ago, I came across a sealed box from a popular Porsche supply house. What mysteries awaited inside the box? Answer: Porsche consumables like filters, belts and gaskets–along with a packing slip dated several years ago.

Final note to self: Insert womp womp here.

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View comments on the GRM forums
dean1484 MegaDork
7/9/20 8:01 a.m.

Having been addicted to water cooled Porsche's since first driving one in 1986 the parts stash has grown to the point that I could maybe built another car. 

solfly HalfDork
7/9/20 8:32 a.m.

When I got my old truck I replaced the fuel pump cause it was old and the fuel gauge was finicky. The replacement lasted 2,600 miles and 4 months before I was on the side of the road. Good quality Delphi pump.

Similar deal with the wiper motor.



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