Corner Wrench: It’s a bad idea to substitute these car parts – Driving

February 23, 2022 by No Comments

Missing that component during a home-garage car repair? Don’t opt for a shortcut if it’s one of these things

Electrical gremlins are annoying, but they’re usually caused by a weakening battery. Photo by iStock /Getty Images

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Every home-based auto tech has faced this scenario more times than they’d like to count: trying to finish a job and something needed is missing. The parts stores are closed and you have to get your vehicle up and running. So you turn to the junk drawer of your tool box and try to find something, anything that might work. Here are a few substitutions that are bound to lead to trouble.

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You’re scrambling to finish off an electrical repair and you’ve run out of automotive-grade wire. You find some household wiring in the junk drawer; should you use it? If it’s solid-core wire instead of brush or strand type, the answer is no. Vehicles use the latter to avoid the problems associated with constant vibrations and shocks. When an individual solid-core wire breaks, the circuit is broken. Brush wire will continue to flow electricity if a few strands of its core snap.

Missing a screw? Fastener substitution is probably the most common mix-and-match affair in any shop. If it’s a piece of trim or non-structural part, you can likely get away with anything that works. But if you swap out screws and bolts with different heads, then you should be prepared for the hassle of carrying several wrenches each time you tackle those.

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When it comes to structural or weight-bearing parts such as shocks, hubs, bearings, control arms, etc., make sure whatever you’re swapping in has the correct hardness rating. Those little marks on the heads of the bolts aren’t just decorations. Use the wrong grade of bolt, for example, on a hub or bearing assembly and you might be watching one of your wheels pass you on the highway. Also check the length of any fastener you might consider using; something too long might penetrate a fuel or brake line or wiring harness.

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