Readers Rides

Break downs and parts availability

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By Mark Weisseg

Nobody likes to break down. It’s just a hassle everyone could do without.

Breaking down today is a big difference versus the sixties and seventies. Back in the day we all could fix our cars ourselves or had a friend that could. Today, you look under the hood and you are dazzled and confused with all the items shoved in there. But, let’s go back to a simpler time and reflect.

As a young guy when my brother or his friends wanted a part they normally got it from Warshawsky’s in Chicago. What is Warshawsky’s?
Well, we know it as J C Whitneys. All mail order today, but back then we would go there. And here is the absolute truth. If you went on a Saturday you found a parking spot on the street. Put coins in the meter and walked into the huge showroom/ warehouse. The place was always packed and you took a number like you do today at the deli counter.

The average wait on a Saturday was a minimum of two to three hours to get to the counter. Only then did the guy behind the counter look up your part using a giant catalog selection.
Once he found the part and the number, he had to physically walk back into the warehouse and bring the part up to the counter. Remember, no computers back then. Say it’s a water pump and you ask the price, he finds another book and looks that up along with the core. Finally, you know the part and the price. You exchange cash only and leave. Then, we had about a 45 minute drive home and hoped the new rebuilt water pump and its new gasket would really fit.
If it didn’t fit then you had to return another day to return the core and get your five dollars back. That was a separate line.
The catalog they mailed you was all in black and white and was filled with things you could not even imagine for your car or truck. They even had a classic car section. It was the biggest game in town. We would waste a half day in there easily.

I wanted to give you some history as we all have it so easy today. An App, a web site and such makes parts a click away. The choices for your all important part may have five different sources and prices relatively close to one another. Belong to their club, FREE shipping! Want over night deliver? Bing, you have it. Want to wait 5-7 days to save on shipping costs. Get bonus points for shopping with a certain vendor. Need help, heck just dial the toll free number and talk to a real expert. Not sure about this process? Get on the Internet and blog. There are zillions of web sites to help you. Get an expert opinion from a total stranger and take it for the gold standard.

In closing, times have changed for the better obviously but those experiences I mentioned earlier are ingrained in my memory forever. Nobody wants to break down but the help you need is a click away. Not a 45 minute drive and a two to three wait in line.

More sociable back then, more convenient now.

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