The Importance of Regular Maintenance – Dave’s Garage

Recently, I went to Rochester, NY for the New England MG “T” Register’s Gathering of the Faithful car show. I decided to take advantage of this trip to also bring my boys, my wife, two of my nieces and my parents to see Niagara Falls. That’s eight people with luggage if you’re counting…

How can I fit eight people in a seven passenger van? In the Chrysler minivans manufactured before the 2005 model year, the seats can be moved around. The three person bench seat can easily be moved up to the center row in place of the two captains chairs. So… It only made sense that I could take out the captains chairs, and add a second three person bench seat. A quick trip to Rathe’s salvage and I was all set. Comfortable, safe seating for eight, with ample leg room and everybody was belted in.

Anyway… Several days before the trip I was returning from Home Depot with a load of Sheetrock and lumber in my Chrysler minivan and the muffler fell off.

While the van was on the lift for the muffler replacement, I decided to give the vehicle a quick safety inspection before the 1,000 plus mile trip.

The van had just been inspected less than 3,000 miles ago, so I was not expecting any issues. A quick inspection of the brakes showed no surprises. Tires looked good. Tire presses were ok. All fluid levels were fine. Front end inspection, VERY LOOSE RIGHT BALL JOINT! It was just about to let go!

The van drove fine, no noticeable noise or movement in the front end. How could this happen?

When I took the old ball joint out, I could see that the cup was broken. It obviously failed fairly quick-ly. The surprising thing is that it gave no symptoms. The scary thing is that wheel was one good bump away from falling off, potentially at interstate speed with eight people on board.

The lesson learned? Pay close attention to your car. Inspect it regularly, especially before any major trips. Fortunately, a major and potentially fatal catastrophe was avoided with twenty minutes of work and less than $50.00 in parts. By the way, my new Harbor Freight Press is working quite well…

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

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