I have to start off by saying I love my friends' optimism. Most of my friends are aware that I'm selling my red V8 Vantage. Earlier today I posted a picture of a V8 Vantage roadster in my garage with a vague caption on my personal Facebook page and just about everyone assumed that I'd bought another Aston Martin. While I appreciate that people will immediately think, "Oh, Rich bought another Aston," that isn't what happened.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
It's an age-old saying most often applied to double-checking physical dimensions before making permanent changes to something. Specifically, make sure you have the correct measurement before you cut something that can't be reconnected.
It also applies to making sure you have the right replacement part for something before you cut and irreparably ruin the original. You can probably guess where this is going.
Steve and his wife split their time between Florida and Connecticut. He asked if I'd be willing to show him how to work on his car because last time he did it on his own, it didn't go as well as he'd like. I met Steve nearly a year ago when he dropped his car off to have James and Lenny upgrade its infotainment system (disembodied segue below), so we already had a bit of a rapport. He's also a beer guy and offered to bring me some of his favorites. Of course I said yes.
He drove three hours to get here and it'd take him three more to get home.
While most shops charge by the job, I charge by the hour when I work on cars. I don't do it often given how chaotic my schedule is, but I do it on request when my schedule lines up with that of the customer. I've had a few people ask me to coach them through the process so they could do it themselves and I'm totally happy doing that. It takes longer to do the job that way, but the hourly charging is still more than fair.
Everything went pretty smoothly. I found a few issues that I pointed out - missing screws, a pinched gasket, a cross-threaded bolt. I showed these to Steve, explained how they happened and how to prevent it, and recommended watching those spots in the future. I talked through the various things we were doing and give some insights on each component of each task.
We did an engine oil change, drained his oil catch can, replaced his intake filters, and changed his gear oil. We even pulled apart his driver door to diagnose a window issue. And then we moved on to the FEAD belt. His car still had the original belt and pulley, and he said he's had a really bad belt squeal for about a year. The FEAD belt and pulley have both been updated since Steve's car was built, and the belt itself was beyond its service life. He asked if we could change them and I said, "Yes, but let me make sure I've got the parts."
I usually don't list all of the inventory I have in stock in my online store. If I have ten of an item, for example, I'll set the quantity available at nine. I do this to ensure I always have one on hand in case of emergency, and to make sure I don't sell inventory I don't have. I checked the storage drawer where I keep belts and pulleys and sure enough, I had one of each. Or so I thought.
The easiest way to remove a FEAD belt is to cut it. It makes belt removal a ten-second job. It's being discarded anyway, so it doesn't matter. Right? .....right?
So what I thought was a FEAD belt wasn't. Because I am dumb. I didn't check the FEAD-belt-looking-part-that-was-in-the-FEAD-belt-bin. Had I checked it, I would have realized that I didn't have a spare FEAD belt and cutting the original one out of Steve's car would have left him stranded three hours from home.
Snip Snip, Dumbass
We cut the original FEAD belt, pulled it from the car, and grabbed what was definitely not a FEAD belt. It's Sunday and the Aston Martin dealership an hour away was closed. Steve is three hours from home. My next shipment of inventory isn't scheduled to arrive for another 2-3 days. I'm about to head over to Japan for a week. It was an absurd situation and I only saw one solution.
I gave Steve the keys to my red V8 Vantage. I told him I'd finish his car when I got back from my trip, plus some extra stuff he wanted done that we wouldn't have been able to do today. Once finished, he could bring back my car at his leisure to swap out for his.
I'm thankful for two things. First, that Steve drives a manual V8 Vantage, since my red one is manual as well. Second, that Steve is a really damn cool guy. It isn't my place to get into his personal details, but I will say that he's been through some shit. He's learned to have a "don't sweat the small stuff" attitude about life and it really showed today.
We agreed to the car swap and then moved on, flushing his brake fluid and reinstalling the rear undertray. Then we chatted for a while and had a couple of the amazing beers he brought over for me to try.
Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves and we need a reminder to take a step back and double-check what we’re doing. Whether it’s measuring a cut or making sure we have the parts we need, it’s easy to move too quickly sometimes. Let my mistake be your reminder.
A huge “thank you” to Steve for being so cool about my mistake. (And please don’t wreck my red V8 Vantage.)
Aforementioned Disembodied Segue!
James from Aston Installations is planning to come back to Tampa for a brief visit and will be doing installations while he’s here. If you’re interested in upgrading your Aston’s infotainment system, let us know! Upgrade options include front and rear cameras, cell phone mirroring on the factory nav screen, music streaming over Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay.
We can also store a couple cars if people need to drop them off or ship them so James can work on them while he’s here.