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Friday, August 21, 2015

Alignment


Replacing upper and lower ball joints on 2001 Dodge Durango 4x4
This is what was NOT done to my truck, so it didn't cost me a bunch of money.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the inside edges of the front tires on my truck were getting a little worn. This concerned me because the truck has 140,000 miles on it and once upon a time the Dodge dealer told me I needed to have the front end rebuilt to the tune of $1500. Gack! What if that's what it needs now? So I took it to Les Schwab and talked to the counterman. He recommended a couple of tires and an alignment. I thought, no, just rotate the tires and take a look at the front end.
    I have to wait a couple of hours to get my truck back, but I figure that's okay. They have paying customers there, they are busy, and I'm asking for some free service. That isn't the usual Les Schwab model. Normally I would expect something like this to be done in five minutes. But it's okay, it's lunch time, I'm hungry, I can walk down to McDonalds and get me a Big Mac and fries for lunch.
   I'm standing in line at McDonald's with bunch of teenagers and I noticed a dad with a couple of little kids, maybe five years old. He's trying to keep them corralled but they aren't having any. They go up to the counter and one of them starts mashing the buttons on the PIN pad and I start having one of those 'get off of my lawn' moments. Little good for nothing rug-rats. I'm working my way up saying something when the ring leader of this pack of two turns around, looks me straight in the face and gives me this great big smile. Shit, there goes my tirade, right out the window.
    My truck still isn't done, but I have my book, Flashman at the Charge (an insider's look at the Charge of the Light Brigade) and the action is hot and heavy. I don't know about the historical accuracy, but it's an entertaining story, and if you aren't careful, you might learn something.
   Eventually my truck is done and the bill is $350 and I'm all WHAT?!?! Seems they put on two new tires and aligned the front end, which is not exactly what I was expecting, but the important part is that the front end didn't need any parts replaced. It just needed to be adjusted. I was going to have to get this done eventually, I just wasn't expecting to have to pay for it today. Fortunately my credit cards aren't completely tapped out.
    So what was the deal with the dealer telling me I needed to have the front end completely rebuilt? Think maybe things were a bit slack and they thought they saw a mark in need of fleecing? Doesn't speak well for the Dodge dealer, especially since that was five or ten years ago and my truck had many fewer miles on it.
    The other interesting bit was that the only thing that apparently needed adjusting was the toe-in, and it wasn't off by much, maybe one degree. Everything else was fine. I did have my local mechanic replace the tie rod ends a few years ago and he had to do it twice. The first time he got them backwards. Nothing wrong until you try to make a sharp turn and then you get this rubbing noise. OK, just don't make sharp turns, but it's a pickup truck, and while it is not a behemoth, it's still bigger than your typical econo-box and getting into parking spaces uses all of its steering capacity. So they swapped the ends. I suspect that they just tried to reinstall the rod ends in the same position and skipped the whole re-alignment procedure and they miscounted the threads when they did the swap. It wouldn't take much, after all it was only off by one degree.

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