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2001 Acura Integra GS-R Sports Coupe (Honda)
2001 Acura Integra GS-R Sports Coupe (Honda)

Rob's Garage

Why the days of DIY car repairs are over Add to ...

I recently had an accident which luckily didn't involve any other vehicles. I went from the third lane on the 401 at approx. 110 km/h to the shoulder in a split second. The tire was ground down to the belts and smoking. I did not run over any hole in the road at that time.

Before this happened, my neighbour (a self-employed mechanic) replaced my driver’s side wheel bearing, which as you know involves removing the ball joint.

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Not long afterward, I started to hear a squeaky, grinding sound from the front end when I turned the wheel slightly.

I had him look at it in his shop, but he found nothing. I continued driving and then decided to spray a little white grease at various areas. The noise stopped. The accident happened approximately three weeks after this.

I have an Integra service manual from Acura and do a considerable amount of maintenance myself, including timing belts. In bold type, the manual says that the vehicle must be on the ground before any rubber mounts or bushings are tightened. The car was on a hoist when the bushings were tightened.

What are your thoughts on this? – Mike

My thoughts? This scares the you-know-what out of me.

Do-it-yourself repairs (DIY) can pose significant public safety issues due to the complexity of the modern vehicle. Case in point: Mike, you have just read in a factory repair manual that your vehicle should have had the front end bushings tightened with the wheels on the ground.

Unlike many DIYers, a skilled technician would understand that a “small” detail like this can make a big difference. Simply knowing about these subtle nuances is why you want a professional working on your car.

Just yesterday I was speaking with a friend who is a licensed tech about this very subject, and there seems to be universal agreement in the industry that the days of DIY repairs are over. Never mind the tens of thousands of dollars worth of tools that are required by a technician to perform mechanical repairs. Skilled technicians will have access to electronic diagnostic equipment, proof of continuous upgrading and as you have found out Mike, access to repair manuals or electronic on-line repair databases.

To repeat the old adage: tools are only as good as the person on the other end of the tool.

Included in this inventory is the ability to use all the available information to form a diagnosis and repair strategy, ensuring that the nuances don’t get missed.

Before those of you reading this start bashing off rebuttals telling me the horror stories of repairs gone wrong in a so-called qualified repair shop, I realize that as in life, there are always exceptions to the rule, and occasionally mistakes can happen there too.

Mike, let me make it clear that I’m impressed with the fact that you have taken the imitative to purchase a factory repair manual. I have done the same with my own vehicles. Although I’m qualified to work on a fee-for-service basis, I do not do my own repairs due to time constraints. But I do is supply my mechanic with my own factory repair manuals. He uses them for the intricate diagnostic processes as he cannot afford to own every repair manual for every vehicle that might show up at his shop door.

I have been very lucky in finding this technician and the skills and credibility he brings to the industry. Mike, I would like to suggest that you consider doing the same – that is, for the very complex repair procedures that could impact your driving safety as well as others that might be sharing the road with you. You would be doing yourself and your technician a huge favour.

To answer your specific question; Yes, to properly install and tighten mounting fasteners for suspension bushings, the suspension must be in its regular ride height position prior to the final application of torque to any bushing hinge point. If the vehicle is on a hoist, the suspension will be in its full rebound, or downward, position. Once the car is on the ground, the bushings will be forced into a twisted position as the weight of the car bears down on the bushings. This will increase the ride height and not allow the bushings to flex into their normal jounce (upward motion) position when the suspension needs to absorb a bump. This puts added stress on the bushings and adversely affects the alignment of the front suspension, which will create steering and control problems.

As for the ball joint problem, this would have been caught by a technician skilled in suspension diagnostics. There are tests that can be applied to diagnosing ball joint problems, not to mention if yours were squeaking the technician would have used a stethoscope to determine the source of the squeak – in a perfect world.

There you have it Mike, the benefits of a skilled front-end diagnostics and repair. Like they say on TV – Don’t try this at home.

Do you have car maintenance or repair questions? Send them to Globe Drive.

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