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There used to be many radiator and air conditioning repair shops in Nassau County, N.Y.

They're all gone now.

Except one.     

So... What happened? As is often the case when an industry (or even a society) meets its demise, it wasn't just one factor. It was many.

The 1960s and 1970s are considered the heyday of the air conditioning and cooling system industry, and for two good reasons:

First, car and truck manufacturers were making terrible products. The OEMs were accustomed to making radiators for non-pressurized cooling systems, but then they began making engines that ran hotter than ever before. In order to compensate for this problem, they began using pressurized radiator caps. By pressurizing the system, they raised the boiling point of the engine coolant by three degrees per pound. Therefore, a 15 pound pressure cap would raise the boiling point 45 degrees. It also put 15 pounds of pressure on the cooling system and the radiators went bad often.

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Moreover, the only competition for radiator repair shops was… other radiator repair shops. Repairing radiators took a lot of skill and even most gearheads working in auto repair shops lack the desire to learn that skill set. Unlike brake repair and tune-ups, you weren’t going to get your radiator repaired at your regular mechanic’s garage. In fact, the normal way to get your radiator repaired was to take your car to your local mechanic, who would remove it from the car and call the radiator shop. The radiator shop would take your part back to their shop, fix or recore the unit and send it back to the mechanic to have it reinstalled.

While this made many radiator shop owners rich and happy, that was all about to change. In the late 1970s, radiator manufacturers already serving OEMs began to build them for the aftermarket, too. Soon, there were radiators for sale everywhere. Then, aftermarket companies began manufacturing complete radiators overseas. Once competition for this market segment began in earnest, prices for complete radiators dropped precipitously. Now, if a customer had a radiator with a core that needed to be replaced, many car owners opted for the complete new radiator, bypassing the radiator shop on their way to the parts store. The majority of retail customers figured it to be the better bargain. After all, why not get everything brand new instead of having some parts left over from the unit that went bad. While their thinking may have been flawed (there's the very big issue of quality to consider), the bottom line is that they felt that way and it spelled the demise of the industry.

In the 40 years since, Cap-A Radiator of Farmingdale has only moved twice. In each case, to a larger shop a half mile or so to the east of the previous location! And while the crew at Cap-A now do more than just radiators, air conditioning and fuel tank repair, Cap-A remains dedicated to the repair of radiators and cooling systems. While all those other shops fell to the wayside, Cap-A Radiator is still standing — and expanding!

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Extremely few radiator shops made it through those turbulent times. Shops that had been around since the 1940s went out of business. But Lomg island native Bill Carberry was just beginning. Four years after he began working for Joe Fels, Fels asked him to manage his new radiator shop in Farmingdale. Carberry jumped at the chance and soon found himself buying the business.

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