Driving with J9 | Do your homework with car parts, you’ll save more money than you think
Wheels24 editor Janine Van der Post recently had to replace a number of parts on her old 1998 Toyota Corolla, and remembered such a valuable lesson in the process…
I am proud to own a 1998 Toyota Corolla RSI. 20Valve, Blacktop – I have to add this because anyone who is passionate about cars knows how special these cars are.
Yeah, he’s 24, but he’s been really good to me and still drives pretty well (i.e. the car, haha). When I bought it in Johannesburg fourteen years ago I was not so well behaved, and still in a phase of my life where I needed to change the original wheels and grille. I also changed the filter and the exhaust. Subtle modifications “Cape Town stock” we called it. And I still made more horsepower at Dyno Days than the Joburg boys with their “chipped” RSIs, and faster on the 400m race at Tarlton Raceway track days. They didn’t like me very much.
The 1998 Toyota Corolla RSI of Wheels24 editor Janine Van der Post.
Anyway, I kept my hands on it, changing the oil and spark plugs pedantically almost every 1000 km, even when I barely drove it. The result was a smooth engine with over 380,000 km on the clock before its first overhaul not so long ago. Fast forward a few years later and my parents drive it now, so my obsession with servicing it frequently has died down.
However, as I got older, I wanted the competition clutch out so it would be easier for my elderly parents to ride without as much bite. The shortened shocks also came to bite my butt when they needed to be replaced—an expensive exercise.
So here is the problem with your car – you must have a vested interest in it. It should never just be an object to get you from point A to point B. And, it certainly isn’t just about checking the oil and water once in a while. When the gas attendant at the service station asks if they can check your levels on your old vehicle, always say “yes, please!”
An experienced auto service worker looking for a part in an auto parts store.
My Corolla had shortened Ian Glass shocks. The trusted man when you wanted it done in Cape Town, and the legend that he is, still working. I paired it at the time with Eibach springs. I decided to get a set of coilovers instead of the conventional Gabriel or Monroe shocks one would usually choose.
This meant I had to make a few visits to vendors and make a few calls to get pricing and find what I was looking for. Like everything else, prices have skyrocketed. Years ago you paid R3500 for “coilies” and even that felt like an arm and a leg to shell out. Now they cost around R7000 per set. Ouch.
I called my usual supplier and even his best price was R6000. I finally got a good deal and paid less because we had to get two sets. When I was old enough to start walking to the “Best Buy” to buy a loaf of bread, my dad would always say “ask for a discount”. He did that everywhere we went and when I was young I squirmed. Now I do it all the time too, and man, does it pay. But, you have to make a few calls and visit parts stores – even if you have to call or visit more than once.
The advantage of coils is that you don’t need to replace shocks or mounts for a while, so inevitably it should cost less – but only if you get really expensive ones that include their own coil mounts. shock absorber. And that’s where I made such a stupid mistake. My rear shock mounts were kaput. And my goodness, if you’re going to replace something like your rear shock mounts, you might as well shell out the extra cash and get the front assembly too. Easy right? Unfortunately not.
Turns out the shock mounts, especially for my vehicle, were like chicken teeth. But here’s a valuable lesson: make sure you know your engine code, as well as your make and model year by heart – and make sure no one can argue with you about it. So in my case, 4AGE. 1998 Corolla RSI 20V. (5-speed manual, Blacktop).
And they say women don’t know much. The number of times I had to tell people they were giving me the wrong parts for the wrong car; I lost count. A guy argued with me because he thought I was talking about engine mounts. I realized he was talking about the wrong thing when he mentioned the middle clash and “the two are not the same”. I was so bored of calling that I decided to visit the parts stores instead for a weekend. A shock mounting price ranged from R495 to R695, excluding VAT, PER shock. Thank goodness I insisted and rechecked prices, and also played vendors against each other. I finally got all four shocks for less than R1000.
I was doing well. R5300 for my coilies, R1000 for the mounts. It was still going to cost me around R7,000, or so I thought.
Janine Van der Post, editor of News24 Wheels
The biggest drama of this exercise was finding someone to do the work. It’s quite laborious, but I didn’t expect the quotes I received afterwards. It went from R2200 to R3000 and that was WITHOUT the shock mounts. I also needed control arm linkages. I wanted to cry, because I might as well have had regular shocks and springs. What saves me is that I won’t have to replace it for a while, if at all.
I eventually found a trusted mechanic who has experience with coils, and he charged me R1100 for the whole job, bringing my tally to R7400. Always painful. But the point of all this is that I saved a few thousand rands because I did my homework. So the next time you need something fixed, don’t just drop your car off at the first shop you find. Know your car and understand the parts you need. Ask questions all the time. And above all, ask for a discount!