Fixing things that ain’t broke

 “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” —Bert Lance

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Cooler temps this week are a sure sign Fall is near. And Fall, to the old car addict, has special meaning—car shows and comfortable cruising weather.

It also means Fall maintenance before hitting the road. And, that means facing one of the hardest decisions for old car tinkering types afflicted with the insane hobby of keeping 50, 60 and 70-year-old cars on the road—avoiding temptation to change something that is working fine just like it is. It’s true, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” also affects the classic car cult.

“I have a long list for this ride,” I noted as Dickie Gilchrist, my long-time friend and fellow car fanatic, silently looked on. He didn’t say anything right away. Sort of made me think of how Granny used to say, “If you can’t something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Dickie’s polite like that. But, he also knows about, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Trying to think of something to break the silence, I struggled with what really needed to be done to keep the aging auto on the road, and what constituted things I simply wanted to do to it. The difference is a very fine line, and the price tag for “want to do” items that glimmered brightly through the summer was quickly losing its luster. However, I tried to remain positive.

Garage 2-sm
It’s just an axle bearing. “Not too difficult.”

“I’m positive it’ll be a good investment,” were the first words out of my mouth. “Put a little money in it, and when it’s time to sell … just wait and see,” I said, slapping Dickie on the shoulder. “You know how this works. Come on, let’s go for a ride.”

The old Ford fired up and drove like a dream. It just had a few, uh … minor problems. “What’s that noise,” Dickie asked?

“Exhaust leak. “I said, waving off his question with a sweeping hand gesture. “We’ve all dealt with exhaust leaks before, right? No big deal.”

“So, how’s the radio working,” Dickie inquired, twisting the knobs?

“Not very well, hums, makes a little static.” I responded. “You know those old tube radios. Just another minor problem to fix. Besides, who listens to the radio when the motor sounds that good?”

The exhaust repair proved to be easy, but an electronics expert, I’m not. Off the radio went to one of the few remaining shops still working on them.

Executing exhaust repairs greatly improved noise levels inside the car. That was good news. The bad news was the assortment of other noises that were now discernable. “What’s that noise, ” Dickie asked?

“Could you be a little more specific,” I teased. “I hear several.” Defining the one Dickie was detecting, I replied, “Doesn’t sound good, does it?” Back in the garage, I offered as how I thought it was an axle bearing. “Not too difficult,” I said. Several hours later, time enough for Dickie to go home for a while and come back to check my progress, I was still at it. “What’s the problem,” he quizzed me. “Can’t get the bearings off?”

“Well, you know how it is,” I stuttered. “These old parts haven’t been off in years, just a little stubborn,” I added, exchanging the sweat on my face for the grease with my hands. “I’ll just run over to a local shop and get these bearings replaced.”

Several days and many dollars later, we were back in the garage. “Time to check ‘er out,” I said. Job completed, we were on the road again for another shakedown cruise. We weren’t even up to speed yet when Dickie tilted his head, frowned and asked, “You hear that? Is it … ”

“Yeah,” I agreed, frustration creeping in. ” It’s the same noise.”

“Know what that sounds like,” he said.

“Did I really want to know,” was the more poignant question?

“Stop the car,” he said. After a quick inspection under the car, and some precision fine tuning adjustments with a big hammer on a bracket rubbing against the drive shaft, we turned the old car around and headed for home. No more noise, just gentle breezes and warm sun while cruising with the top down.

“I think that worked,” Dickie said.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Now, if I can just get the radio back in.”

“Good music on a Fall afternoon cruise would be nice,” he followed.

“Actually,” I said, hesitating. “I was thinking more along the lines of so I can’t hear any more noises. Fixing things that ain’t broke is wearing me out.”

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion ( and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune newspapers (


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