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Rear alignment issue - dealer's mechanic says siezed bushing bolt, no problem. Hmmm

[ My apologies about this long-ish story … I hope it’s a quick read. ]


::: “Reader’s Digest” version :::

The dealer’s mechanic says it’s okay to adjust the rear alignment if the bushing bolts are seized. What he did was use a torque wrench to muscle the bolt in place, then lock it in.

My guess is the vehicle quickly will get out of alignment since the wheel is aligned under stress.

Any thoughts?

::: Long version :::

We recently purchased a used vehicle: 2006 Pontiac Vibe AWD <100,000 KM (62,000 miles). The purchase agreement was to put the vehicle in alignment.

On the day of purchase, the vehicle had not been aligned so it was done while my wife waited to finalize the transaction. The alignment report (see attachment - dealer.pdf) shows the before and after. Their mechanic said to fix the rear alignment, he removed the four winter wheels in the back.

The vehicle was purchased and a few days later my son noticed the vehicle was pulling. We took it to our mechanic and they noted both rear alignment bolts are seized in the bushing. They worked on the left rear wheel: heat, penetrating oil, double-nut + impact tool, etc. It remained seized. They told us to repair it, they’d have to cut off the bolts, get new bushings, etc etc. Big bucks! Attached is their alignment report - see our-mechanics.pdf

As our original agreement was with the dealer to have it aligned, we took it back to the dealer for the repair. We were suspicious about how they originally got the vehicle in alignment though.

The dealer agreed to let me watch the alignment process. The mechanic was able to adjust the rear left wheel (I believe the work our mechanics did on that wheel eventually paid off and the bolt finally gave). The right rear wheel’s bolt remained seized.

While I was observing, the dealer’s mechanic also tried: heat, double-nut + impact tool, air ratchet. It didn’t work. Prior to this, he told me he could try to put the wheel into alignment by using a long torque bar and locking the wheel in place. I told him I didn’t like this idea because that seemed to be a lot of stress on the system. I also told him it seems it’d be easy for the vehicle to get out of alignment again. Also, when he showed me how he would do it, I could see the rear right of the vehicle lifting!

While he continued to wrestle with the problem, he finally said we have to cut out the bolt, order new parts, etc. He talked to the parts person and they were on the way to ordering parts.

I went to chat with my wife about what was going on and that’s when things went sideways.

The manager talked with us, then went and spoke to his mechanic for 30-45 minutes. The manager comes back and says, the vehicle is now aligned. Hmm. Let me show you.

We go to the bay and the mechanic stated he used ‘the stress method’ to put the wheel in alignment. That is, using a long bar, he turned the bushing bolt, got the wheel to align and locked it in.

I’m thinking that’s how the original alignment was done and that’s why after a couple of days it became out of alignment again.

Am I right to be nervous about this method of putting a wheel in alignment? What possible issues can arise from putting putting a wheel into alignment in this way?

Thank you!

Alignment machines have to be calibrated periodically so the first thing I would ask is to see their calibration certificates and see how long it has been since the racks were last calibrated. There should also be a procedure for a daily calibration check, so I would ask to see when the mechanic last performed that. This is the reason that you get different results from different machines.

As far as holding alignment, now that the dealer mechanic forced the offset bushing to rotate, it won’t hold as well, but it will still take pretty large forces to move it again. But the more it moves, the easier it will be to not hold alignment.

You are an example of why I don’t like periodic alignments. If the tires are wearing evenly and lasting as long as expected, and the vehicle tracks true, don’t mess with the alignment. Only get an alignment when there is a detectable problem.

Thanks Keith. The vehicle was pulling which is why we requested it be aligned before purchase.

When a vehicle pulls to one side, first check the tires for even wear and size, then check the air pressure in each tire. Many times the pulling is not from alignment. Dealers will sometimes replace a tire or two with a used tire and they don’t always match.

Does it still pull?

At the moment it’s not but as I mentioned earlier, it started to pull after a day or so.

From looking at the data it does appear that the alignment has been fixed. The confirmation is that the pull is gone. There’s not much you can do until the pull comes back.

Due to ‘stress’ the rubber bushing (and anything else) is under, is this the right way to do an alignment?

Also, we did have the vehicle get out of alignment once after it was done so it seems like this ‘method’ of putting the rear in alignment isn’t working.

I ran into the exact same problem on a the rear of a Subaru . Due to a failed rear wheel bearing I had seized bolts that had to be removed in the outer ends of the arms . Cut those bolts & bushings out & replaced with new . The new bushings were fairly easy to press back into the arms .
Took the car to the dealer for an alignment & they said they couldn’t align the rear due to seized bolts on the inner ends of the arms . The adjustment cam bolt was on the inner end . Dealer quoted $600.00 to fix the problem . I used a breaker bar & turned the cam bolt , bushing & all . The bushing appeared good & turned inside the arm which allowed for alignment .

The bushing was seized to the bolt , not the arm . Anyway , I don’t see a problem with adjusting this way as long as the bushing is good . Either the bolt turns in the bushing or the bushing turns in the arm . The results are the same as far as alignment goes . On the Subaru I was working on it was a round bushing in a round hole in the arm , no particular orientation of the bushing to the arm .

The bushings had a metal sleeve in the center the bolt went through & this was the pivot point of the arm . Since the bolt & metal sleeve had rusted & seized together this transferred the pivot point to between the bushing & the arm but how much could it have been pivoting to allow the bolt & sleeve to rust & seize together . I contend not much .

All that being said , I can see that maybe the bushing would wear a little quicker with the rubber outside of the bushing rubbing against the arm when it pivots instead of pivoting metal to metal on the inside of the bushing where the bolt & sleeve meet .

It seems to me that the arm pivots very little or a car would have to sit for a long time not being driven for the bolt & sleeve to rust & seize or the bushing turns fairly easily in the arm regardless . If it was my vehicle & part of the purchase agreement was an alignment I would want the seized bolts & bushings replaced which would be the correct way to fix it . If you can’t force them to do that , I wouldn’t worry overly much about it .