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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I had power steering trouble and after inspecting the power unit under my 1991 EX Honda Accord. I found two steering gear box mounting bolts had fallen out and were caught by the gearbox shield. I reinstalled the two bolts but the one towards the rear would not tighten. It was not stripped but threaded until it was snug and then simply continued to turn - like the nut was rotating inside. It appears that this bolt enters the frame with no access to the nut. I don't want some garage to remove the steering rack unless it is absolutely necessary. I'm wondering if I coated the bold threads with a thread sealer if it would hold. But then if the bolt had to be removed at some later date, it might not release and the nut might simply turn with the bolt while trying to remove it. By reinstalling the bolts, the power steering now works fine but I'm worried that it may not last.
E.A. Sacramento, CA

A. If you can't get at one of the nuts that holds your steering box on, they were welded or secured to the superstructure as it was being built. The bolts that hold your steering gearbox onto the frame are given a predetermined "tightness" value (measured by use of a torque wrench) and should be tightened to that value. If your Honda's steering gear fastening bolts won't tighten to this value, the "captive" nut inside is either stripped or has broken loose and is spinning. The steering may have been dropped for an engine repair and the bolts over-tightened when it was replaced. There's only four bolts holding the rack straps in place and three out of four is bad odds. Have a qualified mechanic inspect it and suggest a repair. Driving around with "chancy" steering is like playing Russian Roulette with other people's lives.

Q. I've had my 1987 Chrysler LeBaron to several mechanics to see why it has a droning noise and a vibration. It's most evident while idling but even going down the highway the car is very loud inside. A couple of years ago I had two broken motor mounts replace and it was after that when the noise first started. When one of the mounts was adjusted, the noise disappeared. About six months ago, the noise started again but this time new motor mounts (two were broken) did not fix the droning noise and vibration. Should motor mounts break so often? Do I need to see an auto body technician or a muffler shop?
L.S. Chesapeake, VA

A. Unfortunately, those old front-drive Chrysler products were simply built wrong. It was in the days when the company was fighting for its life and lots of things went into production before the bugs were worked out. Something in your LeBaron's exhaust system or engine securing mountings is in a "bind" and the tension has to be relieved or something may break again. In the past, when I came across a problem like yours, I'd loosen (not remove) the mounting brackets on the exhaust system clear back to the last mount at the back of the vehicle, then take it for a ride to see if the problem went away. Usually that cured it and I'd have to figure a way to hang the system without binding it up again. I've also done the same thing with all the other ancillary parts that hang on the engine and transmission. I'd occasionally find that a muffler shop had put on a new exhaust system and not mounted it right.

Q. My son wants to go to a mechanic's school after he graduates from high school. The salesman says that the country is short of mechanics. Should I send him? They find him housing and a part-time job.
C.M. Portland, OR

A. Those auto tech schools are like any institute of higher learning. Lots of my ex-students went and if they were serious, it was worthwhile but if they goofed off, they were rolled out immediately. The U.S. Department of Labor says the country is short almost 65,000 auto techs.


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