Beware the Ides of March – Or Danger in the Forums

“What sayeth Robert to thou?”

I sayeth, “There is great danger in the forum!”

Caesar may have been the first guy you can think of that suffered in the forum, but that was Ancient Rome and we are more concerned with ancient grease!

Car people are tortured every day in online forums, too! Yes, those forums which many of us go to for advice when confounded by some malady that has laid our 4-wheeled chariot asunder. Unfortunately, those would-be soothsayers that we like to think are sages of the socket sets are, in fact, just ordinary guys with so much extra time that they can sit around typing instead of fixing cars.

Jaguar Engine

I have seen the worst advice you can imagine in those forums and even some things suggested that are certain to destroy more parts than are already destined for the bin! It is not at all unusual nowadays for a client to start his tale of woe with, “I was looking on the forums….” It used to be that I was the guy who had to find the problem after the client had been to several “cheaper shops”. (I never have figured out how it’s cheaper to pay several guys a little then pay me too?)

Whatever – now, people are more likely to have a crack at the problem themselves, if for nothing more than to educate themselves, and I do applaud that! … but … let me tell you about a recent job on an XK8.

This smart young fellow had been to the forums and had, on his own, attempted to find the source of an annoying loud squeak which chirped merrily while driving and stopped completely when the car stopped, running or not. He recounted stories of dash vents and delaminated plastics, hot/cold coefficients and so on but with no luck. I suspected this was one of those jobs that “others” had looked at, so that made it all the more important for me to do a fast diagnosis (nothing like a challenge real or perceived)!

Forum Q and ASo, the car not being dropped off yet, I went on the forums for a look and found an unbelievable number of people taking the cars’ dashes to bits and having little or no success changing the noises, and numerous reports of mysterious noises, complete with “pay to diagnose and advise” sites giving bizarre advice. Not far off from “Caesar, run toward the knife!”  (Anyone considering one of those cars should not look at the forums lest their buying feet go from cold to frozen!)

On the appointed day I drove the car and, as described, the noise was loud and made an otherwise pleasant car a candidate for trade-in! There was something funny about the noise as it had no apparent point of origin: you couldn’t really say,”it’s from right about here.” It was from everywhere, which, of course, meant it was from somewhere else!

Once I opened the bonnet, my eyes fell directly on the problem, and with a piece of safety wire tied on the shock top bush, the noise was gone. Of course, a new part was ordered for both shocks and the rest is history, but had a more able owner been committed to the advice on the forums, I would have been brought the car on a flatbed tow truck with a disassembled dash … a very expensive mistake indeed!

So I pray you, leave “Brutus” in the computer or on a bookshelf and “beware the forums”!


Robert Morey
With over 40 years in the business, Robert Morey restores and maintains British cars. His restorations have won many awards and are in collections across the U.S., England, Japan and the Bahamas. Robert is compiling a book on owning British cars as both a business and a hobby. Robert and his wife Michele live in Charleston, South Carolina.