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Return from York: "hard luck" tale ends well with the kindness of strangers and NAPA

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  • Return from York: "hard luck" tale ends well with the kindness of strangers and NAPA

    When the York swap meet closed on Saturday afternoon, Jane and I drove east on U.S. Route 30 (Lincoln Highway) headed for a little get-away in New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ, a pair of quaint old towns on the Delaware River. We were about an hour out of York when I pulled in for a pit stop and found the left front disk brake caliper on my 2003 Ford Expedition jammed on hard and the wheel way too hot to touch. This had happened before, and I knew right away I couldn't drive it far. A quick examination showed the rotor chewed up pretty well.

    Across the street was a NAPA auto parts store and a Dollar General store. It was 4:00 pm and the NAPA store said every garage in Gap, PA was closed by 2:00 pm on Saturday, not to re-open until Monday morning. Panic set in, as I didn't want to spend the weekend in the NAPA parking lot. Of course, the only tool I had with me was a tiny Swiss Army knife. Fortunately, the NAPA guys had a new caliper, new rotor, and a set of pads in stock. I bought those, plus a bunch of tools, and set to work in the parking lot. Every once in a while, I sent Jane back into the store for more tools, like a T-45 star driver bit and a big C-clamp to squeeze the pistons. The store was closing at 5:00, so I also got brake fluid, hand cleaner, pry bars, and a bunch of other stuff. Jane grabbed some other stuff from the Dollar store, like paper towels, since they stayed open.

    While I have done drum brakes for more than 50 years, I had never done disk brakes. It didn't take long for local help to appear. The manager at the NAPA store loaned me a small box of tools and said to just leave them in the back of one of their trucks when we left. Guys wandered out of the NAPA and Dollar General Store to look and ask if we needed help. A very young Guatemalan guy in a knit cap offered his tools and assistance and helped figure out what needed to be done. Other store customers who came and went asked if we needed anything, and several of them dug in tool boxes and bags for a big metric Allen wrench that would fit the two strange screws that held the new caliper together - the NAPA store had closed by that point. I thought these were plugs that needed to come out for insertion of the heavier posts, such as I had removed from the old caliper to get the pads free from the rotor.

    Eventually, a guy from the local tire shop just happened to stop at the Dollar store, saw our plight, and offered the most valuable tool of all: KNOWLEDGE! He said to just leave the plug-like screws where they were and all would be well. Since it was already dark and I couldn't figure out how to get the old rotor off, I slapped the old pads into the new caliper and bolted it in place while Jane held the flashlight. Our "Good Samaritan" then bled the caliper as I pumped the pedal. Finally, by 7:00, I had placed the borrowed tools in the bed on one of the NAPA pick-up trucks and left Rollo the young Guatemalan's ViseGrips under a bush, as he had asked when he had to leave earlier, and we were on our way. We made New Hope by 8:45 and had a very late dinner at a great restaurant. Boy, did I sleep well that night at the B&B where we stayed. Now that we're home, I can get the Expedition fixed the right way, though the brakes work fine now, even with the scored rotor and old pads.

    And, by the way, as we left Lambertville on Sunday afternoon, we spotted a 1941 Champion 4-door sedan for sale at a local garage. More about that in a separate post.

    My thanks to the folks who helped. They'll probably never see this. No one would take any of the money we offered in appreciation. So, if you see someone in need of help by the side of the road, pass it along and pay it forward!
    Gary Ash
    Dartmouth, Mass.

    '32 Indy car replica (in progress)
    ’41 Commander Land Cruiser
    '48 M5
    '65 Wagonaire Commander
    '63 Wagonaire Standard
    web site at

  • #2
    Glad you got home OK, Gary.

    Breaking down is always an unpleasant experience, but it does offer the opportunity for us to be reminded that there are really good folks out there.
    Dave Lester


    • #3
      Good story Gary , glad that you got on your way OK .........just goes to prove that there still are good people out there.

      Home of the Fried Green Tomato


      1960 Champ , 1966 Daytona , 1965 Daytona Wagonaire


      • #4
        Glad it all worked out for you & Jane!

        "We can't all be Heroes, Some us just need to stand on the curb and clap as they go by" Will Rogers

        We will provide the curb for you to stand on and clap!

        Indy Honor Flight

        As of Veterans Day 2017, IHF has flown 2,450 WWII, Korean, and Vietnam Veterans to Washington DC at NO charge! to see
        their Memorials!


        • #5
          Glad you made it home. I think most people would want to help some just are more mindful and pro active than others. Glad you found some mindful and pro active people.
          55 President Deluxe
          64 Commander
          66 Cruiser

          37 Oldsmobile F37 4 Door


          • #6
            Geez Gary, Gap Pa., you were a half hour from me, and only 10 minutes from Ernie Stoltzfus ( a 29 year Ford tech) wish we would have known!!!! Glad the Lancaster County hospitality shined thru for you, and you are home safe. Guess this is one of those cases where you should carry the SDC Roster with you???
            Jim S.
            Last edited by LarkTruck; 03-04-2012, 05:36 PM.
            I was STUDEBAKER, when STUDEBAKER wasn't "KOOL".


            • #7
              Good to have that report, Gary, and good to have seen you at York. BP
              We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

              Ayn Rand:
              "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

              G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.


              • #8
                Originally posted by LarkTruck View Post
                only 10 minutes from Ernie Stoltzfus ( a 29 year Ford tech)
                And...if you had purchased his Scotsman at York he probably would have fixed your brakes at no charge! LOL!

                Ernie's Scotsman is still available; wrinkled but unmolested.
                "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

                Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
                Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
                '33 Rockne 10,
                '51 Commander Starlight,
                '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée",
                '56 Sky Hawk


                • #9
                  Gary, tell us that you found some rare 1930 Studebaker race car parts at York that made the brake problems insignificant.


                  • #10
                    Nice to hear stories of human decency and kindness.
                    Who says new cars are so much more reliable than old cars?


                    • #11
                      Shows there is something to be said for small towns.
                      Paul Johnson, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
                      '64 Daytona Wagonaire, '64 Avanti R-1, Museum R-4 engine, '72 Gravely Model 430 with Onan engine


                      • #12
                        A great story! It's nice to know that people are still willing to help others. BTW, that's a common failure mode for Ford disc brake, I've encountered it on three vehicles I've owned, but never on my Hawk....s


                        • #13
                          Glad you and Jane made it home OK. I can imagine the empty feeling of breaking down away from home especially on Sunday but as you found out , there are some great people out there.


                          • #14
                            Sorry you had trouble, but now you have a great story to tell and got home safe.
                            "In the heart of Arkansas."
                            Searcy, Arkansas
                            1952 Commander 2 door. Really fine 259.
                            1952 2R pickup


                            • #15
                              So many people that want to help at a time of need! Glad your were able to recover and go.