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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. While I was driving from Reno to the San Francisco Bay Area in my '94 Chrysler Concord, I heard a loud bang underneath it. At first I thought I'd struck an object on the pavement but I saw nothing when I looked back. I assumed I had picked up something from the roadway. Other than the noise, everything was OK. I had no problem with the car for the rest of my trip, including a gasoline stop. About 120 miles later, when I turned left onto a city street near my home, the left tie-rod let loose and I could proceed no further. The front wheels were turned in opposite directions. I had the car towed to the shop which handles my tires and front-end work. It turns out that the left tie-rod end had lost its retaining nut and slipped out. The shop reattached it, aligned the wheels and the car was ready to go. The front end had been aligned eight months and 8000 miles earlier by the same outfit, so they did the work at no cost. I never heard if this happening before. The shop inferred that this might have been a design flaw in the tie-rod. Should I report this to the Chrysler people or to the auto safety authorities?
A.C. Danville, CA

A. I hope that while the front-end technicians were under your car they checked and tightened all the nuts and bolts that hold everything together. My first reaction is that someone left that nut loose, possibly on the assembly line and that no one every checked it while aligning your front end. Tie-rod shanks are tapered and when tightened to the proper torque, it takes a lot of pressure to get them off but in 102.000 miles of service, it could have worked loose. I found no applicable recalls on the internet but the phone number of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is 800-424-9393.

Q. We have a 1996 Dodge Caravan with less than 70,000 miles on it. My husband is very meticulous and over time, he has complained that the floor of our garage has a continuous oil spot that forms between the front wheels but slightly to the right side. At around 30,000 miles he took it back and the service manager at the Chrysler shop that takes care of our van said that it was a common occurrence caused by a specially-designed joint boot and that it would stop eventually. This didn't satisfy him and he insisted that the shop install a new one, They did but insisted that he pay for the new part. That didn't seem to cure the problem and my husband got into a row with the shop and we've stopped going there. The joint boot still leaks and my husband just keeps putting fresh newspapers on the garage floor. I'd like to know if the shop manager was telling the truth of if the leak can be stopped.
D.B. Jacksonville, FL

A. The factory says that the inner right side constant velocity boot (a rubber-like flexible cone that keeps the grease from falling out) is a special high-temperature-resistant material that allows grease to "seep" through its pores. It's possible that a non-factory boot would cure it but a factory-authorized shop can only use factory parts.

Q. I have a 1991 Suzuki Sidekick with 70,000 miles that we bought second-hand from a car dealer. It's the car I drive to work and also use it to go fishing. It get me places where my family car can't go. It has a scraping noise when I drive over rough fire trails and my mechanic isn't experienced on Suzukis. What's making the noise?
A.F. Boise, ID

A. A factory bulletin relates that the front end body-mount bushing sleeves contacting the body sheet metal cause these noises. The cure is to remove the grille and headlight units, remove the mounting bolt, top bushing and sleeve and then enlarging the hole they go through. Seems like a lot of work and apparently it won't cause any damage. If it were mine, I'd let it go.


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