“Kevin, one of these days you’re going to learn that fat meat is greasy,” said my mom, usually after I had done something dumb that she explicitly told me not to do. This Daewoo Lanos did in fact, teach me the lesson she was referring to.

When I was toying around with the idea of buying an orphaned car from a completely dead brand, I ran into a lot of criticism. “Oh, finding parts is going to be hard,” or “lots of parts don’t exist anymore, I wish I had never bought this damn car,” they said. Bah, hogwash. I figured, “Uh, we have the internet, this car wasn’t that rare across the rest of the world. I’m pretty sure y’all just can’t research, I’m sure I can find the parts I need. Fuck you, pay me.”

And now I’m eating crow.

I overpaid for this Daewoo Lanos. Yes, it is remarkably rust-free, at least, the body is, but the rest of the car is kind of an active shitbox. The check engine light, brake system and ABS lights, and airbag lights are all permanently on. The car initially had a brake line leak, but the previous owner kind of fixed it before he sold me the car. The transmission’s upshifting abilities are as unsure as a fourteen-year-old me watching a shirtless Dominic Purcell on ‘Prison Break,’ unsure why his heart was fluttering every time he interacted on-screen with Wentworth Miller. Oh, and the front suspension clunks like fuck, and the car pours out gasoline when you try and fill it.

Initially, I thought the Lanos could also be a lowkey flip. It had very few miles for the year, and the body didn’t look so bad. I had plans to give the Lanos as much love as my “Flippin’ Out” series cars. I’d get all the trouble lights off, fix everything broken, clean it up, and then maybe after the Out Motorsports rallycross, I could dump it for more than I paid.

Heh heh heh… hell naw.

My first problem is a pesky brake light.

The Lanos’s brake pedal felt fine at first. In the 90 minute drive from Dayton to Columbus, I never once felt unsafe at speeds upward of 70 mph. The rotors were pretty pitted from sitting, so there was a vibration in the pedal, but again, nothing unsafe. And yet, that pesky BRAKE and (ABS) lights stared back at me. Why?

First, we checked the Lanos’s main fuse block. Oh wow, the fuse for the ABS sensor was completely missing. We replaced it, and sure enough, the ABS light went out, but the BRAKE light remained on. More sleuthing needed.

So we looked under the car and noticed something – the wiring to the ABS sensor on the front passenger-side wheel was taped up, and out of the way. “Oh cool, the ABS sensor is broken,” we both said. Simple. Rockauto had one for a mere $7 and some change.

No, it’s more complicated than that. 

The whole bracket that holds the ABS sensor to the ABS Tone Ring is completely missing. Meaning, there’s no bracket to hold the ABS sensor in the right position so it can feed accurate wheel speed data to the ABS computer.

Apparently, this isn’t uncommon for Daewoo Lanoses — at least the handful of Daewoo Lanoses that are still on the road and bothered to be serviced in English-language speaking countries. This thread on a general-interest car forum shows a guy in the UK shearing his ABS sensor bracket off, and similarly on his own trying to find a way to mend the damage. That was in 2017. 

This Daewoo will never have ABS again.

In other orphan issues, the Daewoo’s front suspension clunking was traced down to collapsed strut bearings and broken sway bar links. The strut bearings took a bit of research, but I was able to find a reasonably priced, U.S.-located set from eBay.

Most of the Hours Getting This Damn Daewoo on the Road Have Been Spent Just Looking for Parts
Spring compressors are scary. Image: Kevin Williams

The swaybar links, however, weren’t so simple. I checked RockAuto, CarID, Autozone, Napa, and eBay again — nothing. RockAuto was completely out of stock, likely never to ever be restocked.

Most of the Hours Getting This Damn Daewoo on the Road Have Been Spent Just Looking for Parts
Screenshot: Rockauto

Now, I had to get creative. Was I going to run the Daewoo with no swaybar? What parts can interchange with my Daewoo?

I knew the Daewoo Lanos’s basic platform wasn’t all new; it was a revised version of the Vauxhall Astra E and F (1986-1994). The 1990-1994 Pontiac Lemans was actually a Daewoo LeMans, which was actually a revised version of that old Astra. RockAuto had Pontiac LeMans endlinks in stock, and they did similar to the ones on the Lanos. The Pontiac LeMans ones looked much longer, though.

Most of the Hours Getting This Damn Daewoo on the Road Have Been Spent Just Looking for Parts
Screenshot: Rockauto

I thought about trying to trim something or maybe shoving the Pontiac LeMans endlinks in there. I said “let’s come back to this in a little while,” and shifted my attention to my other projects.

Randomly, I searched eBay again for Daewoo Lanos endlinks and miraculously found a U.S.-based seller that had a few lying around. Score.

Most of the Hours Getting This Damn Daewoo on the Road Have Been Spent Just Looking for Parts
Screenshot: eBay

The lack of parts availability, (and my waning interest in what kind of isn’t a very exciting car) pushed my mindset from “let’s restore this car to showroom condition” to “let’s just get it to pass tech” at the rally.

With that considered, the Daewoo is less bad than it looks. The tires aren’t super old and have good tread. Remarkably, it’s not leaking oil (aside from some weeping from the valve cover gasket), and leaking while refueling seems to emanate from a flexible hose that links the fuel filler neck to the gas tank. The power steering line fix seems to have worked well, and the car is holding brake fluid. My roommate did convince me to replace the front lines, though.

I’m very confident that the Daewoo will pass technical inspection, so long as no other unobtainium part breaks on it.