The repair shop I chose couldn't find a hydraulic line at any local Chrysler dealership and had to make a new one, which tripled the repair cost.
One Detroit area Chrysler dealer said some of the original factory air conditioning parts are running low.
Partly because today's new vehicles are lasting longer, automakers can't stock a full line of repair parts. It would take too much warehouse space to stock all the parts needed for all the vehicles made in the last 15 years and still on the road.
Most automakers do have programs that cater to owners of older vehicles, but only for a limited number of parts -- usually factory rebuilt engines, transmissions and some body parts, such as fenders and bumpers and safety items.
Ford Motor Co.'s Motorcraft parts division, for instance, offers a wide variety of factory tuneup and brake parts for vehicles as much as 30 years old. Ford also has a remanufacturing operation that offers drivers of old cars rebuilt drivetrain components, such as engines, transmissions and steering racks.
But factory replacement trim and cosmetic parts that wear with age, such as door weather stripping, interior panels, carpet and seat upholstery, are not usually available from dealers when a vehicle reaches about 10 years old.
When a vehicle goes out of production at Chrysler, sales projections are made for each part based on demand, said Pat Dougherty, vice president for sales and product development for Mopar, Chrysler's parts and service division.
Eventually one last part manufacturing run is ordered, called an "all-time buy," that is designed to meet demand for 6 to 10 years after production ends. After that, some parts become available from Mopar's approved classic parts dealers, Dougherty said.
Servicing also can be a problem. The Ford dealership that worked on my SHO no longer had the diagnostic equipment to tap into my car's computer system to see what was causing the check-engine and antilock brake warning lights to remain on.
I spent an entire day driving to independent repair shops trying to find one that had a code reader. I finally gave up after one small shop north of Detroit found the original onboard diagnostic testing kit in a dusty gray box but couldn't hook it up because the plug had broken off.
Chrysler's service diagnostic equipment is usually able to work with out-of-production systems, Dougherty said.
General Motors dealers want drivers of old GM models to return to the dealership for service, and GM is actively seeking their business.
"We see that as a huge opportunity for us and our dealers," said Scott Lawson, General Motors' director for customer care and aftersales.
He said that GM is constantly evaluating demand for parts for its out-of-production vehicles and if the demand is great enough, GM will produce the component.