Car Corner
Car Maintenance

January 1, 2012
By Scott Lewis

There is not much going on this month. However, I did have to take care of some maintenance items on my car, so that should suffice for now.

I went on a drive with a group from Houston on the "Three Twisted Sisters." During this drive the trim on the outside of the passenger's side A pillar blew off my car. December finally allowed me the chance to replace this part. Merry Christmas to me.

The struts that hold up the rear hatch gave out as well. With the first cold front of the season, in early November, the hatch tended to droop. I didn't think much about it as the weather warmed up the hatch worked well.

Then my son was holding it up as he was loading his gear into the back. I told him he didn't need to do that. But he assured me it would not stay up by itself. He was right. And within another 2 weeks the hatch would drop like a stone. It took a tad less than a month for the struts to go out completely.

So... while I was at the dealer buying myself a Christmas present of an A pillar trim piece, and the foam that goes under it, I also got myself a birthday present and picked up a pair of struts for the hatch.

You would think that this story would be over... and that I milked it for 5 paragraphs... but you would be wrong.

As it turned out I tried putting the struts on after work... in the dark. I didn't think it would be a big deal. I popped the first strut off with no trouble. When I went to install the new strut I was going crazy trying to get it on. It seemed to need to be compressed about 2-3 inches to fit. It just pops onto little ball studs. But it took such force to compress the new strut there was no way I could maintain that pressure while lining up the strut with the little stud.

I went inside to look online... to see if there was a trick to it. People said it was a 3 minute job... and all said they wish they did it sooner. They couldn't believe how easy it was.

Back outside... in the cold. I took an oven mitt with me. Maybe that would help me hold it in a compressed position long enough to pop it onto the stud. Now such luck.

Then I noticed as I was holding the hatch open with one hand... that the other strut was limiting the travel of the hatch. That must be it. I need to take both struts off, then extend the hatch a little higher and snap on both struts to their studs.

Nope... the hatch would not go high enough for the struts to fit.

At this point I picked up one of the old struts and compared it to one of the new struts. Sure enough, the new strut was about 2-3 inches longer than the old strut. And this size different was in the main body... not the extended part of the strut.

Back to the dealer... he double and triple checked the part number for the car... and the part number printed on the new struts. He orders another set... yes, the same part number. He went under the assumption that the set he sold me was marked wrong. He did ask to keep one of my original struts, so he can compare it when the new parts come in.

Two days later he calls me and asks if these were the struts for the hood. I told him the rear hatch. He said that was his mistake... he looked up the the wrong parts from the beginning.

So... I went to the dealer and picked up the struts. I popped them on in the parking lot in less than a minute.

Now... just to milk this story a little longer.... I told the above to a friend at work. He said that his wife's car was doing the same thing. I told him to just take one of the struts with him to the parts store (Oh... BTW... don't waste you money getting these at the dealer, a regular parts store can provide them easier and cheaper).

The following Saturday when my friend came over to work out, he showed me the struts he picked up for his wife's car... and the one that he took off her car. See... he had some spare time during the week and picked up the struts while his wife was out with her car. So all he did was give the parts guy the make and model of the car. The struts they gave him were literally less than half the legth of the ones from the car. He returned them and got the right ones when he brought one with him from the car.

So, the moral of the story is... NEVER buy replacement struts for your rear hatch without bring the old ones with you to the store.

Until next time.