I do all my own work on my cars. I rebuild engines, transmissions, and brakes. I weld up rusty frames, I repair steering boxes—I do it all, and mostly because I like to learn, and also because I’m a cheap bastard. But yesterday, I dropped my beloved Jeep J10 pickup off at a shop and paid a lot of money to have work done, and I feel a bit weird about it.
I should first say that there’s no shame in taking your car to a mechanic. Not everyone has hours and hours to spend maintaining cars and many folks don’t enjoy it, either. But I do enjoy spinning ratchets and I do have time to do it, since I can make each repair part of my job writing here at Jalopnik.
That’s why I feel a bit weird.
My Jeep J10 is in pretty much perfect mechanical condition. I’ve rebuilt the four-speed transmission and replaced the clutch, swapped out and tuned the carburetor, replaced the entire cooling system sans the heater core, fixed and adjusted the ignition system, re-packed the front wheel bearings, swapped out the brake pads, drained all the fluids, and the list goes on.
I drive the truck everyday when there’s no salt on the roads and it performs truly flawlessly. Though there has been one issue since I bought the truck: It doesn’t have a tailpipe. Actually, when I first picked the truck up from Yadkinville, North Carolina, there wasn’t even a muffler (see above), which was unacceptable for a number of reasons. First, it let carbon monoxide into my cab, which was very dangerous and second, it was too damn loud.
So I spent $30 on a cheap, generic muffler from Amazon, hooked it, but then found that I still didn’t have a tailpipe to hook it to. This was an issue, because the muffler itself doesn’t have a hanger. It relies on the tailpipe’s hangers to remain held firmly in place.
So when I drove the truck to Kenosha, Wisconsin last year (a trip that I still need to write about), I just held up the muffler with some wire. That wire broke a few times, so I had to get some special stainless steel picture-frame cable to hold the muffler up, so it wasn’t putting too much of a bending load on the cantilevered exhaust pipe.
That has held up but, as you might imagine, a cable doesn’t exactly constrain the motion of a heavy muffler. It prevents it from dropping down, sure, but lateral and upwards movement remains—a fact that made itself aurally obvious anytime I took a sharp turn or hit a bump.
Since I couldn’t seem to find a stock tailpipe that would attach to the truck’s factory hangers, I decided I’d take the truck to a shop and have them build me a custom tailpipe. Could I have bought a $100 tube bender from Harbor Freight and, in time, figured out how to bend a pipe to the right shape? Sure. Maybe.
But I decided not to. I wouldn’t save that much money doing it myself, I’d end up with more junk in my house that I’d never use again and, what’s more, I bet the end result wouldn’t be as pretty as it would be if I had a pro do it. So I dropped $180—which seems like a lot—on a custom tailpipe. And though “custom tailpipe” may sound cool, this isn’t a cool tailpipe at all; it’s literally just some exhaust tubing that bends over my axle, and shoots out behind my rear passenger’s side wheel. It looks totally generic and unexciting:
But oh man, what a joy it is knowing that my J10 is, at least mechanically, at 100 percent. I wasn’t worried about the exhaust falling off before, since it was held in place near the transfer case crossmember, but I hated the banging, and I was worried that the pipe would plastically deform and perhaps fatigue, given enough time. Now that’s no longer a concern, and I can cruise on bumpy dirt roads as far and long as I want in this sweet old truck without a worry in the world.
One reader was kind enough to draw me a picture of my J10 using an Autodesk sketching software. “Just trying to draw something worth drawing every day for 30 minutes,” Koby Crooks told me over Instagram (check out his page). That’s the sketch and the original image above; I think Koby did a great job.
If my truck is cool enough that someone’s spending the time to draw a sketch of it, then it’s definitely cool enough for me to sink $180 worth of tailpipe into. Especially if that’s the only real mechanical problem it has.
So though I may feel a bit weird about taking my truck to a shop, I sure as heck don’t feel weird driving this beast with its new exhaust. In fact, I feel great.