This past weekend I finally decided to get off my butt, go out into the sweltering summer heat of my garage, and do the dang rotation. Yes…because I’m too cheap to pay the $20 a local shop will charge. Well, that and I wanted to time myself and see if I could knock it out in under 30 minutes – mission accomplished by the way. BOOYAAA!
Anyways, after 30 minutes of summer sweating glory, I completed the rotation and patted myself on the back, thinking “You just saved $20 Shaun… good damn job”. Meanwhile, the Mrs. decided to take the Hyundai to pick up my son. Upon returning she made a passing comment to me that the car didn’t feel or sound right while driving. I decided to take it for a spin.
Holy hell! She wasn’t kidding, something definitely wasn’t right. Every bump felt like a sledgehammer right in the culo. There was absolutely no give in the suspension. I’m pretty sure my spine compressed and I’m probably an inch shorter after that drive.
Other people just avoid needing repairs all together, trading in and buying new cars every few years. That way they never own the cars long enough to have any repair work needed. Another ridiculous option not worth mentioning. Oh wait, I just did...dang it!
So what’s the alternative?
It’s really not as scary as it sounds, and let’s be clear, I’m not talking about rebuilding a engine in your kitchen, War of the Worlds style. I talking about general engine, belts, brakes, gaskets, or suspension work. Most of which can generally be done with a normal socket set and torque wrench.
I generally do all of the work myself on my vehicles, and these are skills I’ll retain forever. My general approach to diagnosis and repair is detailed below. It’s never failed me.
THE YBI GUIDE TO AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR INDEPENDENCE (catchy right!)
In my case, recognizing that it was riding much rougher than it had in the past, I suspected a shock/strut issue in the front end. Therefore, I went around the car, bouncing it up and down at each corner to see how the struts responded. Maybe it’d work, maybe it wouldn’t. Couldn’t hurt right! When I got to the front drivers side, I went to press down on the car and it wouldn’t budge. There was absolutely no movement out of the shock. And just like that, the problem was diagnosed: a seized strut.
However, more often than not, it’s not that easy to diagnose the problem. If there is nothing visual, I recommend going to good ole’ Google. I would have searched “2005 Accent riding stiff,” or “2005 Accent rides rough over bumps”. In either case, both searches led me to forums where people were discussing similar issues and the struts were brought up multiple times.
As a last resort, and yes I’ve done it, I’ll go into a local auto shop. I’ll describe the symptoms and most of the time they’ll say, “It’s probably this combobulator, or this thing-a-ma-bob.” While I don’t intend on getting the work done there, it never hurts to get a point in the right direction. Again, I’ve only done it a couple times. Don’t make a habit of going into the shop for help, but never hiring them to do it. They won’t like that much.
Many people advice getting a Chilton’s or Haynes manual. While they’re very cheap compared to the $100+ dollar official shop repair manuals, you’re pretty much getting what you pay for. One book may cover 10 years of your car, during which time they may have switched manufacturing designs three times and had 4 different price point models. In my opinion, they’re junk!
If you plan on owning the car for a long time, I really recommend buying an official mechanics service/repair manual. These are manuals dedicated to your specific year and model, and are what shop mechanics would use. A printed 1,000 page manual may run you $100, but they’re by far the best. Many times there are digital versions floating around the internet that you can purchase for much cheaper as well.
Either way, I also recommend doing an online search for the repair as well. YouTube is full of videos of people doing auto repair work. I found a video of someone doing the exact repair I needed to do. Hells Yeah!
I purchased two struts from Advanced Auto, got free shipping, and 20% off. You’ll notice I said two struts. The research I did in step one taught me that with suspension components, you generally want to replace both sides of the car, otherwise the remaining components can have uneven pressures/forces and prematurely fail.
In all seriousness, don’t ever work on a car that’s only supported by a jack. Always use jack stands. I am arguably over cautious and usually leave the jack in place, while also using jack stands, and removing and sliding a tire under the frame. I’d rather use three different safety methods that get crushed by a car.
Try to talk a friend into helping you. Beers go a long way in convincing someone that they really need to help you. Or at least, that they need to sit, drink, and provide moral support while you do all the work. Plus, everything is more fun with friends.