Home > Shellie Lewis' Art, Uncategorized > How to Fix A Chevy Tracker: PoS Ghetto Car Repairs

How to Fix A Chevy Tracker: PoS Ghetto Car Repairs

This February I have been doing a great job of maintenance and improvement on my beat up eleven year old Chevy Tracker.  I replaced both headlights and even got them installed straight.  I had to go over the owner’s manual and the repair manual to figure out a little spring clip that holds each bulb in place.  It was a four step process but I bravely soldiered through it.  I topped off the motor oil, clutch and radiator fluids.  I also poked several hoses to make sure they were intact.

You have to understand that messing with anything on my car totally freaks me out.  I’m not good for much mainstream vehicle manintenance beyond checking my oil.  Doing anything more than filling the tires up to the correct level of inflation gives me a sense of dread that I have disrupted the fragile ecosystem of my car, which will then fall completely apart or blow up.  This, of course, will be entirely my fault because any mechanical failure would be the result of an error on my part.  I do not have a basis of experience with proper vehicle mechanics.

I do know basic ghetto vehicle maintenance.  I once took the top off of the air filter in the engine of a couple whose car was stalled, held the flappy thing open -I think it’s called a choke- with a ball point pen, had the couple with the stalled car start it again after a little while and it turned over because the caburator was flooded.  For that one brief moment, I was a car repair hero in a lonely bowling alley parking lot.  The rest of my car repair skills come from home-style ghetto engineering as a result of having owned one falling apart, rusted, rolling wreck after another.

Mine is an old car and two very annoying things have broken recently.  My HBBF has been really rough on my passenger side car door.  I kept nagging him to stop slamming the door; he was hauling off on my little pop can car like it was a 1970s Cadilliac.  It turns out, he was also yanking the inside door handle too hard.  It cracked and eventually fell off completely.  The plastic molded handle was split really bad.  Screwing it back into place was not going to work.  A closer look revealed that the hook mechanism that held the release for the door in the interior also snapped off.  I was pretty angry with my HBBF and he spent a portion of this winter rolling down the window to reach the outside door handle and let himself out.

On a slightly warmer day last week, I took a very close look at the small, hard steel bent rod that released the door latch.  I slid it back and forth; it opened the door.  Pulling it as far as it would go allowed me the most access to its length.  I thought it over and fell back to basic jewelry assembly skills.  I coiled some electrical wire around the bent 90 degree angle of the steel door latch rod twice, then I used electrical tape to hold the coiled wrap into place.  If you pull at a right to left upward angle, the door opens fine.  I had some vintage ceramic and glass macrame beads that I added to the DIY door handle.  This led to a brief discussion of my beaded design choice.

HBBF:  “What’s with the baubles?”

Me: “Make it seem less ghetto.”

These were probably once a part of a nice wall hanging or hanging plant holder.

The need for the next repair has existed for the whole time I have had the car.  The original owner had punctured the plastic back window.  I think he may have backed into a tree branch or something.  Like many Jeeps, my Tracker has a “soft top” with rubberized canvas roofing and soft plastic windows.  Layers of packing tape and duck tape were sealing a hole in a window, but it was only delaying the complete collapse of the window panel.  The snow, cold and ice finally cracked the window the rest of the way.

How do you best replace a soft plastic window of a Chevy Tracker?  Most people purchase a new top assembly and attach the replacement kit onto their car.  They just zip on with a few snaps and some Velcro.  Soft tops were starting around $500 and hard tops were around $1,000.  I was only finding things out of state.  These cars are much more popular in warm climates.  The cost of shipping would also have driven the price of a replacement top up a few hundred dollars.  If I had that kind of money, I would be better off putting toward a car with all of its windows, preferably ones made of glass.  I opted for a a $35 trip to the hardware & home improvement big box store, returning with a piece of Plexiglas, double locking plastic zip ties and a Plexiglas cutter.

After some measuring, a bottom cut, some comparisons on location, and marking the needed size changes with a marker, I got the Plexiglas sheet to be a great match for the torn window.  I did well with two curved cuts for the two top corners, breaking the parts that did not snap off well with long nose pliers.  The old, torn window was unzipped off and I cut through the slim areas on both sides where it was attached to the black band of rubberized canvas across the bottom.

The zip ties are holding the Plexiglas in place with holes drilled though the Plexiglas across the top.  I had two cracks from improper drilling of the holes.  I did not keep the Plexiglass held down firmly while drilling; it jiggled and shattered, creating cracks and breaking through the edge where I wanted a hole.  I sealed those with a few layers of clear packing tape.  Clamping Plexiglas down in place with a wooden block behind it and drilling very slowly is recommended.  I lack room in my apartment and was just bashing out drilling the holes with a piece of scrap wood while kneeling my my dining room floor.

I put the replacement window in place from inside the car.  The bottom edge is resting on a metal lip just above the swing gate on the interior.  The main support is from the plastic zip ties across the top.  I did not cinch the plastic zip ties too tightly so there is a little give.  I do not want to hit a pot hole or speedbump and shatter the Plexiglas.  I sealed the bottom edge on the exterior with more duck tape to keep water out.  I plan to go over this with another layer when I can find a roll of black duck tape, which will match the black top and blend in better.  The new Plexiglas window is crystal clear and a huge improvement.  Not only can I see out of the new window much better, I can gesticulate to irritating drivers clearly and it will keep rain and snow out of the car.

Note: You can’t use ammonia-based “Windex” glass cleaners on Plexiglas, it dissolves the plastic.  I will probably be using dish liquid to get the dog nose prints, drool, hairs and dust off this DIY window.  For now, I am happy I pulled this off and it looks amazing.  Who knew actually seeing out of the back of your car could be so enjoyable?  I now feel like one of those upper class folks that have all of their car windows.

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  1. March 2, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Hello Shellielewis,
    Thanks for your thoughts, By now we all know how dire the financial world has become, how the current credit crunch has meant big problems for most of us. The rising cost of living has left a lot of people struggling to make it, thanks to rises in food costs and fuel prices.
    Wishes

    • March 6, 2012 at 11:31 am

      Well, if you live in the USA, you’ve never paid the real cost of food. Maria Rodale and other authors point out that all of our groceries are subsidized by tax money. That’s why groceries cost so much more in Europe and Japan; their governments do not buy down the cost of food. The US government buys down the the cost of the food by tax break, grants and subsidies. Author / activists like Maria Rodale want the same breaks for organic farmers. Organic foods costs more because they do not get the same deal that “conventional” chemical farming does. If they get that reform enacted, then organic foods will be way cheaper than “conventional” farming and family farms will be able to hold their own against agribusiness giants. The noticeable rise in costs of food you mentioned is grocers, shippers and agribusiness passing on their increased cost of gas and diesel to us.

  2. August 26, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Hi Shellie,

    Just curious how that soft-top holds up under a bunch of snow — there’s a deal on one right and I’m thinking of getting a tracker to replace a car that was wrecked, but I live in a cheap apartment (no garage). Living in norther Minnesota.

    Thanks!

    • August 26, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      Hi Matt,

      The rag top has held up to the snow, but I will warn that it is a lot colder than a real car. 😮 Soft tops do not retain heat well. The interior tends to fog or frost up, so between a towel and my driver’s licence, I get the glass clear. Most of my driving is short hops to get groceries and dog food, truck the dogs to the park or haul hockey bags to a rink.

      Most of my drives are under 30 minutes long. If you drive longer distances, maybe think more about a hard top car. I bought this car because it is a stick shift gas sipper and got a good deal for paying cash. It gets the job done, in that it is better than a bicycle. A big part of the Tracker is the car I bought is not a Chevy: mine has the Japanese Suzuki Samurai engine. I’m around 135,000 miles with minimal repairs to the engine, mostly tune ups, a hose, dinky stuff the past 6 years. Big money went into brakes [original to the car], tires and some under carriage work. The Samurai engine is a tough and reliable engine IMHO. It was an engine Suzuki felt was good enough to NAME “Samurai” :3 The car is a PoS but the engine has been excellent.

  3. Ty
    November 15, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Just did a very similar repair to my cracked, holed and yellowed rear window on my 2002 Tracker – thanks for the inspiration. Total cost involved was under 30 bucks. Nice!

    I just unzippped the dead window and threw the whole thing out, including the metal bar on the bottom. Most of the plastic bits that it fit into around the edges of the body are long gone anyway!

    I carefully twisted the cutter knife in the plastic to make 11 little holes around the edge and zip tied the window to the remains of the outer zipper tape on the convertible top. I cut the window long so that the bottom hangs out over the lip in the back so rain runs out. So far so good!

    I just have to be a bit careful to lift up the window a bit when I shut the tailgate, but that’s not a big deal.

    Thanks!

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