June 14, 2013

Adventures in the World of Auto Recycling

Filed under: Hiking — geezerwriter @ 3:24 pm
Dust Deflector

Dust Deflector

Last Wednesday night I went to a picnic and pulled the really dumb stunt of trying to back my car into a narrow space by some trees. I realized the car would be brushing away some leafy branches (old car – who cares?) but I didn’t see a heavy old branch with a sharp right-angle bend hidden by some leaves. I heard a noise and stopped to check and saw the branch touching the corner of the car – it looked like the tree was leaning against the car on its elbow. It didn’t look like a big deal so I just drove out and parked elsewhere, but when I got home I saw that a big chuck of the plastic thing that directs the flow of air from the top of car down over the rear window was missing.

Now it’s an old car (2001 Subaru Forester) but it is my most favoritest car ever ever. The new Foresters are OK and probably superior in many ways but they, like all car models, keep getting bigger year by year, and I just like this one, thank you very much.

I figured that it might cost a fortune to replace the thing, auto dealers being, well…whatever they are. So what are my choices?

1. The same as I did when the front bug/stone deflector on the front of the car broke on a trip through Nevada – take it off, throw it away and get on with life.

The front stone guard was kind of cool looking but I had only bought it for my trip to Alaska on those horrible gravel roads (that never materialized). This thing, on the other hand, does a great job of keeping the rear window clean. We had another wagon-type car without one of these things and the window would be caked with mud in the blink of an eye on a rainy day, of which we have several every year week. It would probably work pretty well as is but it looks really bad – makes the car look like an old junker. Which it sort of is, but anyways…

2. Go back and recover the missing piece and try to repair it.

I rejected this notion out of hand when Mike suggested it since I figured that any repair I could manage would probably not last, turning the errant piece into an unguided missile at 70 on some freeway, and would probably look as bad or worse.

3. Buy a replacement – it looks like it would be pretty easy to remove and install.

Number 3 looked like a clear winner, assuming that I could find a replacement without spending most of my daughter’s inheritance. On Wednesday night I had done a bit of searching on the InterWebs but I didn’t even know what to call the thing. Words like “rear” and “deflector” led me to things like differentials and sunroof protectors.

So I dropped into the local Subaru dealer after Thursday’s hike. I expected to find that it would cost more that the Blue Book value of the car but maybe I could get a part number and a description to aid in my searching. The nice man at the Dewey-Griffin parts desk had to dig out a tattered and dog-eared old binder but there it was, part number and all. He typed it into his workstation and, Lo and Behold! the price was a measly, paltry $75. Maybe a bit much for a piece of plastic, but it is a very useful and very large and very sturdy piece, so I was reaching for my wallet as he checked for availability and whoops! they don’t make or stock those any more!

The new, larger Forester with its 30-35 highway MPG was looking better momentarily.

Back to the Internet

But now I knew that it was called a “rear dust deflector” and I had a nice, complicated part number! So now I could put out a more focused search query: “dust deflector” Subaru E7510FS000 – the quotation marks should eliminate hitting on “bug deflector” and the part number should be ornate enough to avoid false hits.

And I did get some promising looking results but when I delved deeper they were all referring to model years 2003 and later. Even eBay came up empty.

I had passed up a couple of sites that looked a little strange and seemed to be in the used parts business – I presumed that meant junkyards. They produced lots of stuff for a 2001 Forester (it is not at all hard to find essential mechanical and electrical and even trim parts, but my thing was an accessory) but nothing about dust deflectors. But they proffered a service where you can enter information about the part you want and they would distribute it to a “network” of “auto recyclers”. I picked one called “Automotix” – it looked a little dodgy but I went ahead and put in my request, whereupon I was asked for $5.95 to “qualify” my request so that I would be taken more seriously. By junkyard owners!

But they said it would be refunded if I actually made a purchase and I guess I was feeling desperate so WTF, why not?

A Step Back

The main reason I had dismissed option #2 was that I assumed that the deflector was made of something like Lexan (polycarbonate) which is extremely strong (e.g. bulletproof “glass” and football helmets) but also extremely hard to work with. But I had learned that the deflector is actually acrylic plastic and back in 7th grade we little mackerel snappers had made a short weekly trek to the local public school for shop class, including a unit on acrylic fabrication. We didn’t make anything more sophisticated than a cookbook holder but we did learn that you could bond acrylic with a solvent (I think we used acetone). It wouldn’t fill any gaps but if you had a really tight fit between two parts it would soften the acrylic and allow the molecules to interact, forming something more like a weld than a glue joint, reported to be as strong as a solid piece of plastic.

So back to the Internet to find “how to bond acrylic”, where I found the usual melange of helpful / contradictory / authoritative / boneheaded results and settled on methylene chloride (dichloromethane) as the solvent of choice. This is some very nasty stuff – it used to be the most common ingredient in paint remover. It has been largely supplanted by more environmentally friendly potions for that purpose but it is still the stuff you want to use if you want to actually, really get cured paint off something. So I ordered the smallest quantity I could find (I’ll probably use 1cc or less) and went back and recovered the missing piece.

A Step Forward?

Meanwhile, back at the junkyard, a response had popped up from Automotix. It looked suspiciously like an automated response, referring to “your part” rather than “your dust deflector” but it gave a toll-free number for a “Midwest Distributors” in Gilbert, Arizona. It was getting weirder and weirder (Arizona -Midwest?), I got disconnected a couple of times, talked to some really brusque, even surly, guys. But at least they gave a physical address (which checked out on Google Maps) and I finally got the Exterior Parts division, where Jake didn’t have any “dust reflectors” listed, but I should take a picture and email it to him so he could “go out and look at the car.”

Still not completely un-weird. But, again, why not?

After I sent Jake the photo, another response popped up from Automotix: an outfit in the Twin Cities could ship my dust deflector immediately upon receipt of my remittance for $877.55! Strangely enough yesterday I had “joked” to my hiking friends that it would “probably cost $750” to replace it. Click “delete.”

And within 5 minutes I got Jake’s reply, which I quote in its entirety:

100 plus 35 frt

At this point it was all so weird that it couldn’t be anything but genuine. A scammer would put on a much better show! So I replied, asking how we might consummate this transaction; again, I quote:

name address cc and experation date and cvt 3 dig code on the back i
can email you tracking done deal

I probably should have called him back, at least, and given him the data on the phone, but I was just having way too good a time.

So now I await two shipments  – a big piece of plastic and a small bottle of toxic waste. Between the two of them my car should soon be as good as new old. Ain’t modern life grand?



  1. Only you, Al. Only YOU would have found all this and actually considered $135 a good deal. I look forward to hearing how this all plays out. I think your fix with the toxic waste makes more sense. I put your blog address into theoldreader and it came up just like it should have, BTW. 🙂

    Comment by DJan — June 14, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

  2. What was the consensus, did you get the replacement deflector? What was the model #? I’m in the same position with my 2001 Forester.

    Comment by Richard — November 17, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

    • Yes, I bought the replacement deflector but I also bought some methylene chloride and repaired the old one, which I am using on the car. So I have a spare deflector? Interested?

      Comment by geezerwriter — November 17, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

      • How much for the replacement unit? Is this used?

        Comment by Richard — November 17, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

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