Real cars don’t wear bowties

July 28th, 2008

Car Disgust? You betcher:

Being an uninspiring family sedan purchased from a rental agency is not enough to justify Car Disgust, of course; at worst, this background would earn the Malibu some consideration as the Most Boring Car Ever. Thankfully, at least for you, dear reader, is that, this generation of Malibu has a rather unpleasant backstory. Specifically, the V-6 put into this generation of Malibu had a defect that was so obvious and so sinister that it sparked a class action lawsuit in California that wasn’t settled until last May.

As luck would have it, the lower intake manifold gasket is made out of a substance that happens to degrade quickly when kept in contact with Dexcool, the coolant used by GM at the time. This wouldn’t be a particularly fatal flaw if the lower intake manifold gasket’s job wasn’t to keep the engine’s coolant and oil separate from each other. What made this criminally negligent, though, was the fact that the gasket would last just long enough to make it past warranty, usually failing between 75,000 and 100,000 miles. If the owner was attentive or “lucky,” they’d only have an $800 repair to look forward to. If they were unlucky, the coolant and oil would mix, leading to the engine overheating and, with a little time, either seizing or warping the block.

Ahh, GM quality at its height — “height” meaning “depth” in any context other than GM. A repair is attempted, and another harsh and unpleasant lesson learned:

My friend and I fought through the jungles of plastic connectors and tubing, labeling like men possessed, leaving blue-colored tape crumbs scattered throughout the engine compartment to serve as guides upon our journey. Eventually, we stumbled across the heart of darkness called the lower intake manifold, where we beheld the sight you see to the right. We had finally reached the heart of the beast.

That’s when we discovered that GM’s legendary build quality had not stopped at the slowly deteriorating plastic trim in the cockpit, or the gasket that corroded when left in contact with the very substance it was meant to protect against. We had blindly and unwittingly stumbled across a little thing my mechanic would call “engine fatigue.” More specifically, we encountered rocker arm bolts torqued wildly beyond spec so that, instead of simply stripping on their way out and leaving their thread in the block, took the much less pleasant option of taking thread out of the engine block.

It was at this point, and sadly not a moment before, that my friend and I realized we were not mechanics.

Yeah, hardly anybody really is. If you’ve never had to deal with such a thing, let me assure you that it ain’t something anybody would call fun. But the conclusion to this piece certainly is:

When somebody makes a car that leaves your life more miserable than working with Microsoft Windows for more than 40 hours a week, you know something has gone horribly, life-alteringly wrong.

Can I get a “Heh,” anybody?

And I’ll just note that if you aren’t subscribed to Amazon’s highly diverse (in the good, non-PC sense) blogs, well, you probably oughta be. Lots of good stuff there, and you can customize your blog listing to display only topics you’re interested in.

Unlike, say, this one. Ahem.

Update! This, on the other hand…ugh.

Update! Howzabout some Car Lust, instead? Man, that Cord is the cat’s meow, baby. And so is the Mustang at the end. No, not the redneck-chick Holy Grail — a different kind altogether.

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  1. Three Legged Bunny
    July 28th, 2008 at 21:31 | #1
    What year was that Malibu? I'm sure I'm well past it but these days I'm rolling in an 86 ElCo--basically a full size chevy--with a cute vortec V-6. Runs okay and sounds okay thru twice pipes. But I can sell it any day, sometimes three times in a day, and I will if it's got shitey gaskets.
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