I went to the Pull Your Own Part boneyard the other day and saw this blatant violation of the mechanic’s code. Most of us have heard the admonition not to use “cheater” bars, hence the term. They put quantities of force on tools that weren’t designed to withstand it. Just use the right tool for the job and you won’t need to cheat. But let’s admit it: we’ve all used them for that nut or whatever that just won’t budge.
Well, these guys have taken cheating to a whole new level. This is by far the longest bar I’ve ever seen deployed! I’m impressed and I’ll bet they got the nut loose (if they didn’t break the tire iron).
I also saw a few interesting vehicles there in the GM section.
This is the 1994 Buick Roadmaster sedan I went there to get parts off of, for my 96 Roadmaster wagon. And what did I see parked next to it?
Why, it’s a 1984 Pontiac Fiero, a car I haven’t seen on a street or even in a junkyard in quite a while. 1984 was, of course, the first year for Pontiac’s sporty commuter car and also the year of the car’s highest production. Those old enough to remember may recall the Fiero was a bit of a sensation at its debut, before people realized that the car Pontiac built was not very exciting performance-wise or even particularly functional.
This car has the 2.5L “Tech IV” fuel injected inline 4, since that was the only engine offered in the Fiero’s debut year, as well as the standard 4 speed manual transmission. The engine was the same one as the base engine in cars like the Phoenix and the 6000, making all of 92 h.p. At least the Fiero was the lightest vehicle with this engine, but it was no speedy performance car. Power would improve significantly for 1985 with the addition of an optional 130 h.p. 2.8L V6, but sales dropped by almost half and never approached 1984 levels again.
The Fiero is the poster child for GM’s habit in this era of introducing underdeveloped cars, gradually improving them, then cancelling them once they have finally reached an acceptable level of refinement or performance. Fiero famously gained a cool new Formula model, much improved 5-speed transmission and completely redesigned suspension for 1988, it’s final and least prolific year.
I think it was a disservice to this car for it to end up here in a general u-pull-it yard. It would have been better for it to be in a specialized collector car salvage yard where people looking for Fiero parts would be more likely to find it. Apart from the hood and rear wheels, there wasn’t much missing from the car.
I was looking for LT1 engine parts. When I spotted this Firebird, I figured it would be a V6, but lo and behold it was a Formula! If you know F cars at all, you’ll recall that Pontiac offered something for everyone. Trans Ams had ground effects, a large spoiler, scoops and backed it up with powerful V8’s. If you didn’t want all the macho flash, but you did want the performance, Pontiac offered the Formula. It had the exact same mechanicals as the Trans Am, but looked just like a base model except for the subtle “Formula” script on the doors. This one sports aftermarket wheels. Just to have everyone covered, in this era Pontiac also offered the Trans Am’s visual effects on the V6 model, for those (poseurs) that wanted the image without the performance (or cost).
I used to own a 99 Formula, which had the early LS1 and a 6 speed. This 94 had the LT1 and automatic, with the engine being surprisingly unmolested. As least it was until I came along and molested it a bit. Though certainly tired looking, it didn’t look too thrashed, so it must have suffered catastrophic engine or transmission failure to have ended up here. Sad!
Sometimes people over tighten oil drain plugs, oil filter caps, or put oil filters on dry then over tighten them so I have used a cheater bar on more than one occasion. What those folks are doing sure looks a bit risky, but when you need wheels off a Vue I doubt rules are going to stop you.
Here in Portland, OR the junkyards have typical 1990s-2010s GM fodder as well as some outliers like some 1980s and older cars that somehow escaped until now.
How quick is your roadmaster wagon stock? Hows the mpg? I seriously considered getting one back in 2010 cuz I wanted a BOF american car before rhey were extinct. They were a rare find then, and the guys who had them knew what they were worth…and my wife said she wasnt going to be “embarrased riding in that thing.”so I got a grand marquis instead. Nope it doesnt have the hipster cred of the roadmaster wagon but it was cheap reliable offered great utility and averaged 22 mpg and could hit 60 in 8.6 seconds…same acceleration as a 4 cylinder accord lol.
I did the same thing a few years ago. GM BOF cars were collectible, expensive and old with associated rust and wear. The Grand Marquis was cheap, plentiful and often newer, in better condition with many more years of production and development. For a fraction of the price of a rusty, worn LT-1 B-body one could pick up a much nicer Grand Marquis . Careful shopping will get you a touring package with all the police-car performance options in a leather wrapped luxurious interior. Surprisingly the humble 2 valve 4.6 gives up little to the LT 1 when tuned properly.
Now if only I could fix the Grandpa-car image.
Did yours have rhe 2.73 rear end? Mine did and I always felt like the 3.12 or 3.55 would make it more enjoyable to drive bit didnt think it was worth the cost in labor parts and mpg to swap the rear end. I did get a jet performance programmer for it which did more to tune the transmission than the engine…in that regard it was worth it. The shift points changed to take advantsge of the powerband better and it shifted quicker with it.
I’ve never timed the wagon. I ran a stock 95 Caprice 9C1 at a drag strip once. Those are generally good for low 15’s. The wagons had the exact same drivetrain, but with more weight and taller axle, they would definitely be slower. Still, not bad for such a big car. EPA is 15/24 mpg. I’ve never gotten over 22-23 on the highway. Around town combined is around 17-18 for me.
I don’t know that I get much hipster cred for the wagon. I find the general population has no idea what it is or when it was made. Mine doesn’t have woodgrain, so it’s not so conspicuously anachronistic. But, I have noticed I’ve been getting more strangers approaching me lately saying they like my car!
My wife will ride in it, but she’s not crazy about it and definitely doesn’t like to drive it!
Hold on to it. The LT1 b wagons are literally classic status now.
I base the quality of tools on how they stand up to the leverage of cheater bars, that or seek out brands that have a free exchange policy 😉
And while it may be a violation of mechanics code, here in the rust belt we turn a blind eye to the practice as it’s usually a necessity. Tools are meant to be used, and if the situation calls for they occasionally need to be sacrificed for the greater good. I once struggled to get a lower control arm eccentric bolt out where nothing worked, until, in desperation, I placed a floor jack under the breaker bar under the end and jacked it up to the point the car lifted before it finally POPed. I still have that very bar(cheapo duralast) and socket(harbor freight deep impact) in my toolbox, no worse for wear.
Yep, this is how it is. This summer I had to change the rear brake pads on my daughter’s “new to her” ’02 Dodge truck. Whoever tightened the lugnuts up previously was an idiot. A six foot cheater bar, with my 200 lbs and much “shock loading” they slowly came loose with much popping and squealing. I’m amazed that neither the tools or studs snapped in half.
That’s 1,200 ft/lbs (or lb/ft, if you prefer) to loosen them up. Well beyond my pneumatic impact wrench’s capability.
That looks a little risky as it seems to me he is using a 3/8″ ratchet based on that visible 6″ extension. It doesn’t look like no 1/2′ extension to me. If 1/2″ that cheater bar would more likely break the stud which is the same as removing the nut anyway. If 3/8″ extension all bets are off I’d say.
Most of the time these guys go in with the minimum tools to use. I go in carrying a 25lb. tool box with what I know I will need. I do get a little irritated when some come up and ask to borrow my tools.
As for me I have a 5′ bar I use as a cheater bar when removing the nut that secures the half axles which are torqued at 150lbs. and that is the only time I used it except on the Park Lane once to remove a nut securing the upper control arm.
I’m going to guess the reason the Firebird bit the dust is the water pump leaked. On those LT1 engines, the water pump was located directly above the Optispark ignition at the front of the engine. Hence, if the pump leaked coolant, it went directly into the magneto, rendering it toast. The location made it difficult and expensive to replace so the car ends up in a boneyard (like this one).
My guess it’s in the junk yard because it’s 20+ year old pony car that led a life of excessive hooning.
You’d be surprised, I’ve gone to self service junkyards regularly for over a decade and V8 ponycars were always uncommon finds
That’s a good guess! Paying a mechanic to replace the Optispark and water pump would be pretty pricey. I just did it myself on the Roadmaster, which is not nearly as tight underhood as a Firebird, and it was a big task. My waterpump leaked and it did NOT kill the opti, fyi. Since I had the water pump off, I replaced the cap and rotor on the original distributor. The Optispark has a bad reputation, but in 20 years of various LT1 cars, I’ve never had one die on me.
I did a llitle research on the Optispark and, apparently, other than the labor required to get at it, the issues mainly surround nothing more than GM being their typical, incredible cheapass on the quality of the parts. What they used (which aren’t designed to be accessed for routine replacement, BTW) work fine in a perfect, laboratory environment, but not so great in the real world (like when it rains, driving through puddles, or washing the engine bay). Replacing the basic stuff (like the rotor and cap) with higher quality aftermarket pieces helps cure the main problem of moisture getting in. There was also something really dumb like GM not designing holes with a diameter sufficient for cooling.
But, evidently, these are all band-aids since the whole Optispark set-up is just a poor design. For someone looking for worry-free operation, the recomendation is to just replace it with an aftermarket system.
Having owned a 1998 Firebird and having experienced first hand how much a pain in the back end any repairs on mine were
I am going to say that any decent repair, probably consigned this to the junk yard. Something such as a intake manifold gasket leak could have caused the price to be too high for repair
The sight of the older gentleman wielding that bar, along with his appearance, lends a Karl Wallenda vibe to the scene. 🙂
As a fan of air cooled VWs, cheater bars have become a way of life. The nuts holding the rear drums and the flywheel gland nuts have a torque spec of 212 ft-lb. The ~4′ long handle from my floor jack fits nicely over my 1/2″ breaker bar, and that combo works well to loosen or tighten those fasteners. Yes, I realize that there are special tools for these fasteners, but this works well for me. It’s pretty well accepted that there is no down side to over-torquing, so I just give them a good push with my jack handle cheater, and probably are around 250 ft-lb.
I haven’t needed the 4-foot cheater since I picked up on old Ingersoll Rand electric impact a couple years ago, when I was about to replace the pinion seal (again) on my 4runner ‘s rear diff. Not much room for a cheater under there, but the impact made removal a breeze. Has paid for itself since anytime I have to remove tires, mower blades, bush hog blades, etc. Just never ever ever use it for tightening!
I will use a 2 ft cheater with a 3/8 breaker on stubborn fasteners under the hood, just because that lets me apply pressure more smoothly than yanking with all my might on a wrench. Lessens chance of collateral damage (broken electrical connectors, wires, plastic reservoirs) when the fastener breaks free.
I have killed a Craftsman 3/8 ratchet with a cheater, Dad’s no less, but I replaced it before he found out. Still have his broken one, will rebuild it one day.
I cracked a 1/2″ drive impact( !) socket once using a 6 ft cheater, trying to get the crank pulley off my 4runner. There was a loud pop, and a sense of relief followed by deep sadness, then it was off to the pawn shop for an angle grinder. Once I cut the flange off that bolt I was able to back it out by hand, with no wrench!
Fiero very rare beast here, they werent imported new but Ive seen one at a show bright red of course no idea what engine or year probably not the four base model cars are not popular selections as most arrive with the idea of resale and a 92 hp four banger isnt going to attract buyers qwhen the average Japanese shopping trolley can outrun it.
Cheater bars yep used a few we had the Hazet tools guy quite perplexed as to how some wrenches got broken they give a lifetime warranty even for industrial use and 1inch&1/4 spanners are incredibly strong but so are the nuts they are used to undo especially after 3 years heatsoak as casing bolts on a BTH steam turbine but 8ft of steel scaffold tube and two guys is a lot of torque, they replaced the spanners but remained suspicious.
Reminds me of the time stuck in the countryside with a puncture on a old Madza B1500 pickup truck; and wheelnuts that would not budge.Turns out they were lefthand thread!
Among my newest tools is a Harbor Freight impact socket set which is very useful and so far (4-5 years) is holding up well. Among my older “tools” is the handle of an old floor jack that I bought in the late ‘70’s, about 4 feet long and probably 3/16” wall that has done a lot of cheating in the ensuing decades. Since most of my regular mechanical work is on bicycles these days, a cheater is when I flip the Allen wrench to use the longer side as the handle.
Jack handle is a great cheater. There was a pile of gas pipe left here when we came to our current house, works well too.
I coach a high school robotics team, and the robots are mostly put together using 4-40 bolts and Allen wrenches. The kits come with screwdriver -style wrenches, which the kids love because they can tighten quickly, but leverage is an issue. Evil Mr. 4Yotas added some Bondhus L-wrenches, and directed kids to use the long end to snug every last bolt. After initial resistance, kids were happy once they realized
A) Robot no longer left a trail of nuts and bolts when it ran
B) They could operate more than 10 minutes without wheels and other major components falling off
C) You didn’t need Loctite to achieve A and B.
Had a ’95 Firebird that looked much like the featured one here. It had reached beater status by the time it hit a lowly 60k. I’ve not bought an American car since.
Another example of great Yankee ingenuity!