By on October 20, 2010

Danny writes:

Ok, this may be somewhat of an abstract question, and it doesn’t really pertain to me in any particular manner, but hear me out anyway, because this sounds like one of those perfect cases of somebody (The Agonist) getting duped by a mechanic. In this case it’s the band The Agonist who travel in their “Blue Hornet” which appears to be a Chevy 1500 van. They say in the video that they dumped a bunch of money into it before they went on tour, but somewhere in California the rear differential went bad and it needed to be replaced. They go on to say in the video that they tried to get a second hand rear diff, but they were told it was illegal, so they made their way towards the border to find one closer to Mexico, where apparently these kinds of “laws” aren’t enforced. One of the band members also notes that the “rear differential decided to break again” which tells me this light of a van might not be up to the task of pulling all this gear. Maybe they should step up to a 2500, or better yet a tour bus.

Video here:

Do you know of any laws that would prohibit the installation of a second hand differential? If so, could you shed some light on why it might be illegal, or did this band simply get duped?

Sajeev Answers:

I find nothing on the Internet that proves California will not allow the sale/installation of a used differential.  That said, many wrecking yards do not sell items they see as a safety threat: I’ve tried to buy valve bodies for anti-lock brake systems in the past, never could get them.  But a differential?  That’s hard to believe. So I agree with you, and here’s my explanation.

I do remember, years ago, a (Dateline NBC?) expose on a scam where guys on motorcycles flag down elderly folks in RVs, claim they are seeing differential failure, take them to their “shop” and overcharge them for a part they did not need.  Or they never install a damn thing, as there was no problem with the RV in the first place. How did it work? The scammers pull the differential cover, add a pinch of metal shavings to the cover while under the RV, get back out and quickly “prove” that the rig is about to lose an axle.  It’s absolutely shameful, pure evil and somewhat clever.  But they got caught, eventually.

Something like that could apply here, as an overloaded van (rated for 6300lbs towing, so not by much) is far more likely to eat transmissions, not differentials. And the second differential failure implies the installer had no clue how to set a rear end for new gears.  It’s not an easy task, so that’s entirely believable too.

Then again, maybe someone in the band pulled a Stevie Nicks, someone else got wind of the “rumours” and they took it all out on that poor ‘ol Chevy Van via neutral drop ( Best and Brightest, give us your possible explanation for this truly odd scenario.

Send your queries to [email protected]. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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17 Comments on “Piston Slap: Antagonizing The Agonist...”

  • avatar

    Surplus differentials? Illegal? Not in this universe.

    I vote drunken clutch-dropped burn-outs, myself.

  • avatar

    This is just some good natured trolling, right? What’s next, illegal fenders?  Don’t you dare install that second-hand bumper, citizen!

  • avatar

    “second-hand = illegal” probably means the mechanic would rather install new parts and charge accordingly.

    “Replacing the differential” does not quite compute.  AFAIK recent Chevy vans use an integral carrier type axle which means the casting that contains the differential gears is integral with the whole axle housing.  In this case it it easier and cheaper to replace the whole axle especially if junkyard parts are used.  If this was the case, then set up of the gears is not an issue.

    Even if the gears were replaced and set up in a somewhat sloppy manner this would most likely cause noise rather than rapid destruction.
    In my 38 years of DIY mechanicing I have never had to repair a rear axle except for replacing pinion shaft seals.  So I too vote for abuse as being the cause of Agonist’s problems.

    • 0 avatar

      FWIW my parents mid-90s Camaro Z28 need a rear axle after the gears died. This was a very adult driven vehicle. Very adult = meaning my mother who never has any vehicular fun drove it back and forth to work. It needed new gears at 100K miles.
      My uncle’s V-6 Dakota that he drove for sales needed a rear axle (gears) at ~75K miles. He never carried more than a few hundred pounds in it and never towed with it. Again driven carefully and softly mostly highway miles.
      Yeah – some vehicles chew up their rear axles.

  • avatar

    3 things with a 1500 van.
    1.  Non conversion van preferred, once you put people and luggage in it, its at its max weight, pretty much.
    2.  overdrive off.
    3.  transmission cooler – lets it run longer and gives you a good indication that your transmission is working too hard when the engine temp starts to soar
    We’ve towed cross country in our conversion van(1500 with the 305 motor) 3 times now, and its rough on the old girl.  The worst thing we did was running up I-15 to vegas in July, in the middle of the afternoon, and hitting Vegas at rush hour, at the wrong end of the strip.  By the time we got to the hotel, the temp needle was bumping into the red.  We had the transmission drained and filled before we left Vegas, and that stuff was BLACK.
    That was 4 years ago, and shes still running pretty decent, knock on wood.
    Its an interesting game to play, too, when climbing those hills, balancing speed with engine temp, as you can see a direct correlation of work to temperature.
    The 2500s and up would make better towing vehicles, or E250 and up.  I don’t have any experience with the dodge vans, a friend has a v6 full size dodge van, but its no good at towing.

    • 0 avatar

      This van is rated at 6500lbs towing, but that will go down if the van itself is overloaded.  Odds are the band is fine, or maybe pushing their luck a little.  But still, they should be having transmission problems, not axle problems!
      Your van had a 305? I’m sorry to hear that.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I worked with a guy who had a mid 1990s GMC 1500 truck with a 305, 4 speed auto, 2wd, extended cab, long bed.  He had a slide in truck camper and towed a small aluminum fishing boat.  But he did all his own maintenance, including draining and filling the transmission every 20,000 miles like clockwork.

  • avatar

    You’d think if they could afford a time machine to come to the future from the 1970s, that they could afford a new van.

  • avatar

    Marc Bolan is sitting inside the van.

  • avatar

    I think that once the mechanic(s) saw a van full of long hairs that had to get to a gig they were going to come up with some way to overcharge them.  Differentials can go bad, an old boss of mine broke his diff in an early 90’s S10.  However, that was because he admittedly like popping the clutch and doing burnouts every time he took off from a stop.  He was 40 something years old.
    I gave it the old college try and attempted to watch the video, but I didn’t make it past the 7 second mark.  I am just not as tolerant of music as I once was.

  • avatar

    Illegal… Classic!

  • avatar

    Sounds bogus, but being CA, maybe it has something to do with with the lubricant?  Naa – it’s bogus.
    Around 6:40, she says the engine is dying, too.  Time to replace.

  • avatar

    Silly hippies. Silly, silly hippies.
    So, they ran into a standard issue POS mechanic who has a boat payment to make. Were we truly Darwinian, they would know better and shoot this lying b-tard where he stood. Sadly, we aren’t.
    I sit on the fence with scenarios like this – though the wrench is a pathetic lying scumbag, that anyone would be so ill-informed about anything brings out the Darwin reaction.
    That these kids are so absolutely pathetic that couldn’t figure out to spend 5 minutes googling this crap really makes me tend to lean towards them getting/paying what they deserve.  BTW, what is wrong with anyone that can’t swap out a rear diff if you’re broke? It’s almost always under 30 total bolts (counting wheels), and requires a coupla $6 bottle jacks, $20 worth of hand tools, and worst case if you’ve never done it, maybe a day of your time.

    • 0 avatar

      Porschespeed – I agree. That’s how I got my start. More vehicular problems than cash to pay someone to fix them. I bought a pair of aircooled Beetles pre-Internet while stationed overseas. One looked good but which was a mess. The other one was ugly but mechanically sound. I had a fair toolbox and John Muir’s “How to Keep Your VW Alive” book. Two weeks later I had one Beetle that looked good, ran like a sewing machine and alot of spare parts laying around from the ugly car. Drove that car for a couple of years even doing 10 hour trips. Fun car. Just slow and noisy. Made good heat through. All year ’round. GRIN! I miss that car.

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