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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:11 pm 
3 Deuce Webber
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Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 4:03 pm
Posts: 75
Location: Passssssssadena, California
Car Model: 1981 B-150 original California short passenger Van
It’s great to find this site still going, and familiar people still here.

I am not an auto mechanic. Like many/most of you, i’ve done a good bit of work, in my case as if i was a mechanic, but i’m not. A couple decades ago i was driving around with a bad shock, and had no idea there was a problem, until a mechanic pointed it out. I could be driving around on ball joints about to fail, and have no clue. This despite avidly reading Slant 6 News when it existed, obtaining and reading the Stockel and other books Slant Six Dan recommended, etc.

At a minimum, i need somebody trustworthy to point these things out. Preferably, i need a mechanic/shop able to do work i am unable or unwilling to do. Best of all would be one which is also a STAR approved emissions testing station. Getting referrals from people i know around here has not worked well: the shops weren’t good. Some were horrible. Yelp reviews led me to a shop which generally seems honest and has been great for a 2001 Camry, OK for a 1998 Cadillac, and highly mixed for my ’81 B-150—more on them below.

Can anyone recommend a good all-around shop/mechanic in this area? Someone who would welcome my van and my business?

In addition to Pasadena/SGV, i welcome recommendations anywhere along the I-110/CA-110 corridor (e.g. Torrance, California) in case i break down and need to be towed within AAA’s limited tow range. I wouldn’t mind suggestions for I.E. and/or Orange County or really anywhere in this metropolis, for the same reason.

Beware: Vince’s Auto Service, Pasadena, California
They get great reviews on Yelp. Vince, the owner, seems honest and trustworthy, and is generally OK to deal with. They’ve been excellent for a 2001 Toyota Camry and alright for my mom’s 1998 Cadillac DeVille. They did do some necessary repairs—replaced power steering box, wheel alignment, carburetor work + fuel line work to get it to pass emissions + doing the emissions test—which were necessary (i didn’t know about the steering box issue, but it did feel better afterwards) and basically done correctly as best i can tell.

They also left the EGR line to Vacuum Amplifier clamped and the associated carb. fitting open to air. The ground clip at the base of the steering column was left floating. They tore off a piece of my carpet to use as a shim on the steering column rather than taking a few extra moments to put it back together correctly. The van pinged substantially under load (accelerating uphill for example), which had not at all been an issue before i took it in. They left it parked where some chemical-laden water dribbled onto the windshield, whose stain streaks i could not get off no way no how with anything (the windshield was replaced in 2005 and was in great condition).

Put the EGR line back together, then took it back to have them deal with the pinging and windshield. Vince was not happy dealing with the windshield, but did somehow take care of cleaning the streaks off acceptably (they’re still there at certain very specific sunlight angles/conditions).

This is one of those shops where one is insulated from the actual mechanic doing the work (unless it’s Vince). The mechanic was apparently so ragingly pissed off that he yanked the seatbelt holder out of its housing! He did, however, fix the pinging, and the van did pass emissions testing 2 years later at a different (test-only) facility.

So here’s the thing. Whatever they did to the carburetor, i’m getting substantially better gas mileage than ever before. I rebuilt and adjusted the carburetor twice (1989, and again in 2014 with a Walker kit) very, very carefully, per the FSM instructions. Being professionals, they did far better than i did, shaking my faith in my ability to do anything on this vehicle.

I took care of the grounding clip/properly mounting the steering column without the carpet shim, and resetting the steering wheel such that the horn again worked.

Given the end result and especially the fuel economy improvement, i can’t say that the work was terrible, though ripping up pieces of carpet + tearing out the seatbelt holder leave me feeling that my van was violated. For that reason alone i’m reluctant to go back to Vince’s. I also prefer at least meeting the actual mechanic and being able to ask questions, being respectful of the mechanic’s time. Vince’s isn’t that sort of shop.

Something else that shakes me up: Vince said the alignment was “way out”. I’d had it done at the place i go for tires not even 3 months prior, having not driven it in between (it was still on Planned Non-Operation at that time). The tire place has modern equipment and seems trustworthy; so does Vince’s. But they vehemently disagreed on proper alignment. How is a vehicle owner like me supposed to know whom to trust?

As far as i know, as of today there’s no immediate issue beyond my needing another emissions test ASAP, and having a trustworthy shop/mechanic able to help me if the van fails the test and i can’t figure out what to do. Still, due to my relative ignorance, i could be driving around in something potentially dangerous. At a minimum, i really need someone to “check my work” and let me know of any safety issues. Hopefully some here have some ideas.

Greatly appreciative of this community (as always),


1981 B-150 short Van, stock 225, California emissions package, Electronic Spark Advance (digital Lean Burn), Non-feedback Holley 1945, AT
Driven for economy, not for speed.

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